Stephen J. Buhler, Attorney at Law

What rights to visitation do grandparents have in Utah?

As discussed last week in this blog, one of the most rewarding experiences for Salt Lake City residents is the time they take raising a child. Perhaps the only thing that tops this for many individuals is becoming a grandparent, which brings about its own rewards and fulfillment.

At the same point, just as disputes develop between parents in a divorce, there can be disputes that involve grandparents of the children after a divorce as well. In these circumstances, grandparents may question what rights they have in the area of family law.

Utah law specifically gives rights to grandparents under certain circumstances. By statute, grandparents have the ability file a petition with the court in order to ask for visitation of their grandchildren.

However, there are certain limitations on grandparents' rights under the statute. The law creates a presumption that a parent's decision with respect to a grandparent's visitation is in the best interests of the child. However, this is a rebuttable presumption, which means grandparents may be able to overcome the presumption and be granted visitation even if the parent does not agree with it.

In order to overcome the presumption, the court must find certain factors weigh in the grandparent's favor. Among the factors the court will analyze include whether the grandparent is a fit and proper person to have visitation with the child, whether the visitation is being unreasonably withheld, whether the parent is unfit and whether the grandparent has acted as the child's custodian. The court will also examine whether the visitation is in the best interest of the child.

Accordingly, just as with custody decisions between parents, there is no single issue that controls. Rather, the court will examine the entire situation and all of the relevant circumstances to determine whether the grandparent should be given visitation.

Source: Utah State Legislature, "Visitation rights of grandparents," accessed on March 27, 2015

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