Legal Information: Maine

Custody

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Updated: 
January 30, 2019

Can a grandparent get visitation?

In order for a grandparent to get visitation, there are two steps. First, the grandparent must have a legally acceptable reason (known as "standing") to file the petition. Next, the judge must consider many factors and then decide if visitation would be in the child's best interest and not interfere with the parent/child relationship.

Step 1:

A grandparent would have a legally acceptable reason (standing) to file a petition for visitation rights if:

  • there is a "sufficient existing relationship" between the grandparent and the child, which means there has been "extraordinary contact" between the grandparent and the child (Note: If the grandparent has been a primary caregiver and custodian of the child for a significant period of time, this meets the definition of "extraordinary contact" but there can be other ways to show extraordinary contact as well); or
  • there is another convincing (compelling) reason that the state of Maine has that justifies granting visitation. This "state interest" must be so strong that the judge believes it specifically justifies interfering with the parent's important (fundamental) right to deny the grandparent access to the child.1

Step 2:

If the grandparent makes it past "step 1," the judge then has to decide whether or not to grant visitation rights. To grant visitation, the judge must believe that:

  1. reasonable visitation would be in the best interests of the child; and
  2. the visitation would not significantly interfere with:
    • the parent-child relationship; or
    • the parent’s authority over the child.

The judge will consider the following factors when deciding whether visitation is in the child's best interests and whether it would interfere with the parent's relationship with the child and authority over the child:

  • the age of the child;
  • the relationship of the child with the child's grandparent(s), including the amount of previous contact;
  • whether one or more of the child's parents or legal guardians has died;
  • the preference of the child, if old enough to give a preference;
  • how long the child has been in the same living arrangements and the desire for consistency;
  • how stable any proposed living arrangements for the child would be;
  • the motivation of the parties involved and their ability to give the child love, affection and guidance;
  • the child's adjustment to the child's present home, school and community;
  • the ability of the parent and grandparent to cooperate and resolve disputes or to learn to cooperate in child care;
  • any other factor affecting the physical and psychological well-being of the child; and
  • if the grandparent is a convicted child-related sex offender.2Note: If the grandparent has been convicted of any child-related sex offense, the judge has to make sure the child would be safe on visits and might require the visits to be supervised. If the conviction is for certain sex offenses, though, the judge must assume that no visitation is in the best interests of the child but the grandparent can try to change the judge’s mind.3

1 M.R.S. 19-A §§ 1802(2); 1803(1)
2 M.R.S. 19-A § 1803(3)
3 M.R.S. 19-A § 1803(7), (8)