Grandparents Custody Rights in Michigan

by Mark Vansetti

    Under Michigan law, grandparents are not awarded custody of a grandchild unless the court determines the parents are unfit to care for the child. In circumstances where grandparents are not awarded custody, the court may still enter an order for visitation with the grandparents, known as grandparenting time. Michigan's Child Custody Act dictates the particular circumstances when a grandparent may ask the court for grandparenting time and indicates what the grandparent must prove to receive it.

    Best Interests of the Child

    Michigan recognizes that parents have a constitutional right to have custody of their children. When courts make a determination regarding child custody and parenting time, the court must take into consideration the best interests the child. To do so, the court will analyze any factor it considers relevant. Under the law, the court must consider the emotional ties with the parents, the parent's capacity to provide love, affection, guidance, food, clothing and medical care, and whether there is a history of domestic violence in the home. The court must also take into consideration the child's preference, how long the child has been in a stable home, child's home, school and community record, as well as the moral fitness and mental and physical health of all parties.

    Petition for Custody

    If a grandparent wishes to ask the court for custody on the basis the child's parents are unfit to care for the child, the grandparent must file a petition with the court. The court must consider the best interests of the child when determining custody. Also, the court must presume that awarding custody to the parents is in the best interests of the child unless another party, such as the grandparents, show that awarding custody to the parents is not in the best interests of the child. This must be proven by clear and convincing evidence, meaning the court must be thoroughly convinced.

    Grandparenting Time Petition

    In circumstances where a grandparent does not have custody, she may ask the court for visitation or grandparenting time in certain circumstances. Initially, the court will presume that a parent's choice to forbid grandparenting time is in the best interest of the child as long as that parent is fit for parenting. However, grandparents have an opportunity to prove to the court by a preponderance of the evidence that denying grandparenting time is harmful to the child. This means the court must find that there is a 51 percent chance or greater that denying grandparenting time is harmful to the child.

    When Grandparents May Petition

    A grandparent may ask the court for visitation when there is a divorce pending between the parents or when the child was born out-of-wedlock and the parents are not living together. Grandparents may also petition the court for grandparenting time when someone other than the child's parents have legal custody, the grandparent has cared for the child during the year prior to the petition or when the child's parent, who is a child of the grandparent, is deceased.

    About the Author

    Mark Vansetti is a licensed attorney and, along with his Juris Doctor, holds bachelor's degrees in both human biology and economics. Throughout his professional career, he has written on a variety of topics for the American Bar Association Health Law Section, FindLaw and other websites. Vansetti also served as the senior editor of his law school's law review.

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