Yes. States vary with regard to the process and extent of granting grandparents access to their grandchildren, but like many Colorado sets forth specific laws for how to petition for grandparent visitation. In fact, recent statutory amendments by the Colorado legislature also allow great-grandparents to petition the court for grandparent visitation rights in some circumstances.
Basically, the law allows a grandparent or great-grandparent to petition the court for access whenever there is or has been a custody or allocation of parental responsibilities case. The law is set forth in full here.
The types of cases that a petition may be filed in include:
- a determination of an invalid marriage
- a legal separation
- paternity/allocation of parental responsibilities case
- third-party custody dispute
- the death of the parent (who is the child of the grandparent)
- a dependent and neglect case involving the department of human services
The grandparent may petition the court based on a motion and affidavit outlining why the visitation would be in the child's best interests. The parties may have a hearing during which both or all parties will have an opportunity to present their case. Even if no hearing is requested, the court may award the visitation after finding it is in the child's best interests. Regardless, the court must make this finding and if termination of grandparent visitation is at issue, the same determination - best interests - must be made.
Many grandparents are surprised to learn that they do have legal rights to their grandchildren. While Colorado case law provides that parents' rights are superior to grandparents' rights and that a fit parent is presumed to make decisions that are in the best interests of his or her child, there is room for grandparents to seek court orders allowing grandparent visitation rights. The outcome of these cases, however, is often based on the specific facts or circumstances. The law can be complicated and these cases are just as emotionally charged as any other in family law. If you think you want to petition for grandparent visitation, meeting with an experienced family law attorney can help you determine if this is the right path for you.