It is fairly difficult for grandparents in Tennessee to get court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren. Generally, but not always, a grandparent will have to prove that he or she had a significant relationship with the child and that the severing of that existing relationship would cause substantial harm to the child. While many grandparents would describe any relationship between themselves and their grandchildren as “significant,” the courts often disagree. In addition, it is often difficult to prove that a child would suffer substantial emotional harm if the child were deprived of visits with his or her grandparents.
The grandparents have a greater chance of success, however, in cases where the child lived with the grandparents and/or the grandparents were the child’s primary care-givers for a substantial amount of time (generally longer than six months). In cases where a child lived in the grandparents’ home for 12 months or longer and was then removed by the parents, Tennessee courts will begin by taking as a given the fact that denial of visitation would harm the child, and the party opposing visitation would have the burden of proving otherwise.
For the specific law governing grandparent visitation in Tennessee, please see Section 36-6-306 of the Tennessee Code Annotated.
However, grandparents often contact attorneys not because they want visitation but because they are rightfully concerned about the safety and welfare of their grandchildren. As a grandparent, if you notice evidence of drug use, abuse or neglect, improper supervision, or other harmful conduct by the parents of your grandchild, you may act to protect the child by filing a petition asking the court to find that the child was “dependent and neglected” (please see our “Dependence & Neglect” page for more information). Courts will often remove the child from the home and place him or her with the grandparents in such cases.
If you are a grandparent seeking visitation with your grandchild, or if you are currently concerned about the welfare of a minor child due to his or her current living conditions, please contact our office.
Throughout her legal studies and her practice, attorney Amanda Raye Thornton has focused primarily on Family and Juvenile Law and Civil Rights. Equipped with a thorough understanding of relevant laws and familiarity with local courts, Ms. Parker is an effective advocate for her clients. During her career, she has represented clients in juvenile, circuit, chancery, general sessions, and federal courts, in matters involving child custody, support, domestic violence, and more.