Attorneys are often asked by grandparents whose children refuse to let them see their grandchildren about grandparents’ visitation rights. Unfortunately, in most cases, grandparents have very few rights to visit their grandchildren.
Grandparents’ visitation rights are governed by Iowa Code Chapter 600C. Grandparents only have a right to petition to visit with their grandchildren if the grandchildren’s parent, who is the child of the grandparents, is deceased. In other words, grandparents have to have lost their own children in order to step into the shoes of their child and visit with grandchildren. Even then, they may only seek visitation if it is being denied by the grandchildren’s living parent.
Grandparents have to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” (a standard higher than a preponderance of the evidence) that visitation is in the best interests of the grandchildren, that the living parent is unfit to make the decision to deny the grandparents visitation, and that somehow the living parent’s judgment has been impaired.
Impairment can be proved by several factors, including, but not limited to, the living parent’s: neglect of the child, abuse of the child, violence or indifference toward the child, unwillingness to promote the emotional and physical well-being of the child, drug abuse or diagnosis of mental illness.
To determine whether visitation is in the best interest of the child, the court must consider the relationship between the child and the child’s parents, siblings, other relatives and grandparents. The court will also consider the places of residence of the child and the grandparents, the age of the child, and other factors.
The Iowa statute seems harsh, but it mirrors decisions made by the United States Supreme Court and the Iowa Supreme Court. Those decisions reflect a societal and judicial predisposition toward determining that parents know what is in the best interest of their child, and that parental rights should not be interfered with by the courts.
The statute is intended to protect the rights of parents to make decisions regarding what is in their children’s best interest.
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Information provided Tom Murphy, 1009 Main St., Adel, 515-244-0111.