Legal Information: Massachusetts


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October 24, 2018

I am the child’s grandparent. Can I get custody or visitation of the child?

It depends on various factors.  We suggest talking to an attorney for advice on your situation.  Go to our MA Finding a Lawyer for free and paid legal referrals.

Grandparents may seek custody (temporary or permanent) of their grandchild if they believe that the child is at risk living with their parents. In order to gain custody, the grandparents need to:

  • get permission from the parents to take custody; OR
  • prove to a court that the parents are not fit to care for their child1 (which can be difficult to do).

If the parents are both alive, married, and living together, and refuse to let the grandparents visit with the child, the grandparents cannot ask for a visitation order from the court.  Grandparents can ask the court to order visitation only under the following circumstances:

  • The parents are divorced or separated; OR
  • The parents are unmarried and living apart; (paternity must be established if the paternal grandparents are seeking visitation); OR
  • One or both parents are dead.2

In order to get visitation from the court, the grandparents must show that not being able to visit with the child will cause the child significant harm, and in particular, will hurt the child’s health, safety, or welfare.3  The grandparents must also show that visitation would be in the child’s best interests.2

1 See Page v. Page, 107 N.E.2d 21 (Mass. 1952); In re Adoption of Carlott, 884 N.E.2d 550, 2008 WL 920074 (Mass.App.Ct.)
2 M.G.L.A. 119 § 39D
3 See Blixt v. Blixt, 774 N.E.2d.1052 (Mass. 2002)