Grandparenting Time and Child Custody

By:      Makenzie P. Sipes

Did you know that Michigan is one of few states with a statute specifically providing “grandparenting time” in child custody disputes? Under the Child Custody Act of 1970, a grandparent can seek an order awarding grandparenting time under specific and limited circumstances, which include if:

  • An action for divorce, separate maintenance or annulment involving the child’s parents is pending before the court
  • The child’s parents are already divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled
  • The child’s parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased
  • The child’s parents have never been married, they are not living in the same household, and paternity has been established
  • Legal custody of the child has been given to a person other than the child’s parent or the child is placed outside of and does not reside in the home of a parent; or
  • In the year preceding the commencement of the action for grandparenting time, the grandparent provided an established custodial environment for the child, whether or not the grandparent had custody under a court order

MCL 722.27b(1)

The above grounds do not entitle a grandparent to grandparenting time. They merely serve as grounds that must be met before a grandparent may file a request. A grandparent must prove either that the parent of the child is unfit or that the denial of grandparenting time creates a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health. This is an extremely high burden and one that is not often met.

If a grandparent does meet their burden, the Court will consider a set of 10 best interest factors before making the determination to award grandparenting time. Some of these factors include the grandparent’s moral fitness, the emotional ties between the grandparent and child, the child’s preference, and the willingness of the grandparent to encourage a close relationship between the child and the child’s parents.

If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the best interest of the child to enter an order for grandparenting time, the court will grant the order.

John E. Gannon practices in the area of family law at SMITH BOVILL, P.C. These articles are intended to introduce various issues arising within this field of practice and are not intended to replace individual legal advice. If you have questions, please contact John at the firm’s Saginaw office.