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Bill would strengthen grandparents’ visitation rights

Grandparents can become the forgotten parties in Tennessee divorces, even though they may have close and enduring relationships with their grandchildren. A bill recently by the Tennessee House of Representatives aims to protect the grandchild-grandparent relationships of both sets of grandparents by expanding the authority of judges to make specific provisions for visitation by the non-custodial set of grandparents.

Under current Tennessee law, one set of grandparents may be awarded physical custody of a child if the parents have been declared to be unfit parents. In such cases, the non-custodial grandparents have no visitation rights, and the court has no power to grant such rights. The court can only make a recommendation to the custodial grandparents to allow the other set of grandparents to allow visitation.

The proposed legislation would correct this situation by giving family court judges the power to grant physical custody to one set of grandparents and visitation rights to the other pair of grandparents. In order to obtain either custody or visitation rights, the grandparents must show that the custody or visitation arrangements serve the best interests of the child and satisfy the judge that they are worthy of either custody or visitation. The bill must now pass the state senate before it becomes effective.

Any grandparent who wishes to obtain either physical custody of one or more grandchildren or visitation rights with those children should not just wait on the fate of this legislation. Whether or not this bill becomes law, a consultation with a knowledgeable family lawyer can provide a helpful analysis of the situation, an enumeration of potential legal strategies and an estimate of obtaining a favorable outcome.