In a case that pits a grandparent against parents, the Kings County Family Court considered whether the grandmother had standing to request visitation with her grandchild. Contrary to what many believe, under New York law, grandparents do not automatically have the right to have access to their grandchildren. In fact, there are rules related to when grandparents even have the legal right to petition the court to request visitation.
Grandparents who seek to request visitation must have standing. Legal standing means that a person seeking redress in court has sufficient connection to and harm from the action challenged. Grandparents do not automatically have standing the way parents do. Under New York law grandparents have standing to seek visitation only under two conditions. The first condition is that either or both of the child’s parents must be deceased. The second condition is that circumstances must warrant equitable intervention of the court. If standing is established the court must then determine if allowing visitation is in the best interests of the child. This case only addresses the issue of standing.
In Of v. S.F. both parents of the child are alive and the child resides with them. If the grandmother has standing, it must be based on equitable circumstances. The grandmother had a close relationship with the child for several years and was involved in rearing him. She babysat the child, visited him, played with him, and attended school events for grandparents. However, the parents took issue with how the grandmother treated them in front of the child. They described her as rude, angry, abusive, and confrontational. The parents took steps to encourage the grandmother to change her behavior by talking to her, sending her emails, creating rules, and going to therapy. However, when the grandmother’s behavior did not significantly change, in December 2015 the parents barred the grandmother from further contact with the child unless she complied with their conditions, including participating in therapy. The grandmother did not comply.