Grandparent Rights in Michigan

A Brief History

The United States Supreme Court has held that parents have a fundamental constitutional right to raise their children.  The court reaffirmed this in the case of Troxel v Granville, 530 US 57; 120 S Ct 2054; 147 L Ed 2d 49 (2000). In that case, the Troxels sought visitation rights with their grandchildren under a Washington statute.  The statute was held to be unconstitutional as it applied to the Troxels because it did not give any special weight to fit parents’ constitutional right to raise their children.

Three years later the case of DeRose v DeRose, 496 Mich 320; 666 NW2d 636 (2003), was decided by the Michigan Supreme Court.  In that case, a grandmother sought visitation rights with her granddaughter under Michigan’s grandparenting time statute.  The court in DeRose held that the Michigan statute was unconstitutional because it did not require a trial court to give any deference to fit parents’ decisions about the rearing of their children.

In direct response to the decisions in Troxel and DeRose, the Michigan legislature amended its grandparenting time statute in 2004.  In 2007, the revised statute was put to the test in the case of Keenan v Dawson, 275 Mich App. 671, 739 NW2d 681 (2007). In that case, the Keenans sought visitation rights with their grandson after the child’s mother was murdered.  Although no charges were ever filed, the child’s father was a suspect in the murder.  The court held that the new Michigan statute, was constitutional and that it was in the best interest of the child in that case to have visitation with his grandparents.

Michigan Law

In Michigan, a grandparent may seek visitation time under 1 of the following circumstances:

  1. An action for divorce, separate maintenance, or annulment involving the child’s parents is pending before the court.
  2. The child’s parents are divorced, separated under a judgment of separate maintenance, or have had their marriage annulled.
  3. The child’s parent who is a child of the grandparents is deceased.
  4. The child’s parents have never been married, they are not residing in the same household, and paternity has been established by the completion of an acknowledgment of parentage under the acknowledgment of parentage act, . . . by an order of filiation entered under the paternity act, . . . or by a determination by a court of competent jurisdiction that the individual is the father of the child.
  5. Except as otherwise provided . . . , 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.
  6. In the year preceding the commencement of an 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.

Under Michigan law it is presumed “that a fit parent’s decision to deny grandparenting time does not create a substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.”  A grandparent can rebut this presumption if that grandparent can prove by a preponderance (more likely than not) of the evidence that denial of grandparenting time creates a “substantial risk of harm to the child’s mental, physical, or emotional health.”  If this cannot be proven, a complaint or motion by the grandparent will be dismissed.  The court must dismiss a complaint or motion if two fit parents both oppose grandparenting time.

If the grandparent can rebut the presumption mentioned above, the court must consider whether an order for grandparenting time is in the best interests of the child.  The court must consider all of the following:

  1. The love, affection, and other emotional ties existing between the grandparent and the child.
  2. The length and quality of the prior relationship between the child and the grandparent, the role performed by the grandparent, and the existing emotional ties of the child to the grandparent.
  3. The grandparent’s moral fitness.
  4. The grandparent’s mental and physical health.
  5. The child’s reasonable preference, if the court considers the child to be of sufficient age to express a preference.
  6. The effect on the child of hostility between the grandparent and the parent of the child.
  7. The willingness of the grandparent, except in the case of abuse or neglect, to encourage a close relationship between the child and the parent or parents of the child.
  8. Any history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect of any child by the grandparent.
  9. Whether the parent’s decision to deny, or lack of an offer of, grandparenting time is related to the child’s well-being or is for some other unrelated reason.
  10. Any other factor relevant to the physical and psychological well-being of the child.

If the grandparent can rebut the presumption mentioned above the court will consider the factors listed.  If the court determines after considering all of the factors that it is in the best interest of the child, an order will be entered providing reasonable grandparenting time.

If you would like more information regarding Grandparent Rights in Michigan, feel free to contact me.  Together we can discuss your situation and how the law may be able to help.

Michigan statute MCL 722.27b

9 Responses to Grandparent Rights in Michigan
  1. kim
    May 30, 2013 | 3:57 pm

    I have a difficult situation and need advice, i have 4 grandchildren that both parents are playing games with us and the grandchildren. Married for 7 years, seperated, now divorced for maybe 4 months, mother of the children is my daughter (Becky), married at age 18, father military man for four years, moved back to michigan, lived with us first than found a home to rent. I have been very involved in all parts of my grandchildrens lives, from birth til about 1 1/2 months ago. every time that we try to help our daughter the father does not like it, this time he has stopped us from seeing our grandchildren. I have been more involved in them children’s lives than their mother or father. Mother would want to go out drinking to the bars and the father wouldn’t want to be bothered with the children so the only way she could go out was if I watched the children. Doctor appointments were all done by myself and my daughter. He didn’t want to have any part in the kids’ appointments, said that if there was anything wrong with the children it was all Becky’s fault. One time the oldest child burned her eyes because both parents were not watching her and poured kaskaid dishwasher soap over her head, neededless to say, she could not see for the whole time that I had her. The oldest boy has been diagnosed with approxiea (spelling) it is were he can not get the words out of his mind and out through his month. He had a speach therphist come to the house once a week, father would be sure to be gone when they were there. One time Becky didn’t get home in time and was yelled at by phone to get her butt home (i am putting it mildly for you) and take care of the (demeaning name calling) retart teacher. so much more but not enough space to say. I even started having a grandma & granddaughter week vacation started and the second year was told I couldn’t have there girls. Is there anything that you can do to help this very crushed grandma & grandpa.

    • Larry
      May 31, 2013 | 12:31 pm

      I have written an article on grandparents rights, which you can read by clicking HERE.

  2. luella pullen
    April 21, 2013 | 6:57 pm

    Dear Mr.Brown my grandson is now in foster care what can I do to get him. this has happened several times. his mother has not done what the court has order her to do. please help me if you can. thank you and god bless.

    • Larry
      April 23, 2013 | 1:41 pm

      Is there a father in the picture? Have you explored the option with the court of a possible temporary guardian?

  3. Louise Ledford
    February 3, 2013 | 3:48 pm

    My daughter (Marine in Camp Lejune NC) and my son-in-law split up and he took my grandson to his hometown in MI before he was served with a court restraining order, and a order giving my daughter temporary custody of my grandson. She has sent monthly support feeling helpless because he has evaded getting served. He assured me we could visit and now has cut all communication FB because he’s afraid we will help her. What can I do to see my grandson?

    • Larry
      February 4, 2013 | 4:45 pm

      If the parents are not divorced, there is probably little you can do to petition for grand-parenting time. I’m sorry about your situation.

      • Louise Ledford
        February 6, 2013 | 8:55 pm

        Thank you for your time.

  4. larry and linda long
    January 13, 2013 | 2:32 pm

    grandson married a women who had 3 kids from previous marriage lost custody to there fathers due to drug, verble an physical violence grandson they had a child together an decided one more time to go back to his wife after we have had custody of our greatgrand daughter for 20mths of her 2 yr old lifegrandson dismissed the case judge in turn gave custody back to parents is there any thing we can do to get her back. so she is back in her own.

    • Larry
      February 4, 2013 | 4:47 pm

      If the parents have your granddaughter, it is up to them whether they let you see her. I hope your families can work this out.