Colorado grandparents’ rights to grandchild visitation

Colorado law gives grandparents the right to request visitation with their grandchildren in certain situations.

Anyone who has had a close relationship with a grandparent can attest to how special those unique ties can be. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or HHS confirms this in an article on its website, where it says that grandparents "play a pivotal role in the development and health of young children."

According to HHS, a child who has love and support from a grandparent may have better:

  • Academic development
  • Psychological development
  • Social development
  • Self-confidence
  • Feeling of family and belonging
  • Sense of security

Given this reality, it is not surprising that the Colorado legislature passed laws giving grandparents visitation rights with their grandchildren in certain situations when a court finds the arrangement to be in the children's best interests.

A grandparent is allowed to seek visitation rights in specific situations:

  • The grandchild's parents' marriage ends in divorce or legal separation, or their marriage is found to be invalid.
  • Someone other than the parents have legal custody or possession of the grandchild (except when the change is because of legal adoption).
  • The grandchild's parent, who was the child of the grandparent, is deceased.

The procedural requirements are a bit complex, but basically a grandparent must file with the state court a motion (request) for grandparent visitation, along with an affidavit (sworn statement) containing the facts in support. The parents or persons having custody of the grandchild must get notice of the motion and a copy of the affidavit, in response to which an opposing affidavit may be submitted to the court.

Either side or the court itself may request a court hearing; otherwise the court may decide on the visitation request based on the affidavits. In either case, the court may only grand grandparent visitation if it is in the child's best interests. Likewise, grandparental visitation may be modified or cut off if it is in the grandchild's best interests.

One issue of note is the court's responsibility if a parent objects to grandparent visitation. Because of U.S. Supreme Court holdings giving constitutional significance to the parental right to control children, including who they may spend time with, the Colorado Supreme Court requires that when the parent objects to a request for grandparental visitation, the trial court must first presume that the parent's decision against visitation is correct, unless the grandparents can show by clear and convincing evidence that a grant of visitation between them and the grandchild would be in the child's best interest.

A grandparent may only use this procedure once in a two-year period unless the court finds there is good cause for an exception.

Interestingly, the law says that the court may not prevent a move of the child based only on grandparent visitation.

If after a grandparent is granted visitation a dispute develops between the grandparent and the parent or other person with custody of the child over visitation, the Colorado statute sets out a court procedure for resolution, including the possibility of required mediation.

Many parties have interest in a grandparental request for visitation: the parents, the grandparents and any other person with custodial or decision-making power over the child. Any Coloradoan who wants to bring a motion for grandparent visitation or wants to oppose one should speak with an experienced Colorado family lawyer as early as possible to fully understand the legal rights and proceedings and to obtain legal representation.

Keywords: Colorado, grandparents' rights, grandchild, visitation, best interests, Constitution, hearing, court

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