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Legal Information: Tennessee

Custody

Updated: 
May 9, 2019

When can a grandparent be granted visitation rights?

Once the visitation petition is filed, the judge would hold a hearing. In order to be granted visitation, two things must happen at the hearing:

  1. the grandparent must prove that there would be a danger of “substantial harm” to the child if visitation is not granted; and
  2. the judge must find that visitation would be in the best interests of the child after considering the factors explained in How will a judge make a decision about custody?1

Substantial harm” can come from the parent or custodian not allowing or severely limiting the grandparent-child relationship when any of the following are true:

  • the child had such a “significant existing relationship” with the grandparent that the loss or severe reduction of the relationship is likely to cause severe emotional harm to the child;
  • the child had a “significant existing relationship” with the grandparent and the loss or severe reduction of the relationship presents the danger of other direct and substantial harm to the child;
  • the grandparent was a primary caregiver to the child and therefore, the loss or severe reduction of the relationship could interrupt being able to provide for the daily needs of the child and, therefore, cause physical or emotional harm; or
  • the child’s mother or father died and the grandparent seeking visitation is the parent of that deceased parent.2

A “significant existing relationship” is when:

  • the child lived with the grandparent for at least six months in a row;
  • the grandparent was a full-time caretaker of the child for at least six months in a row; or
  • the grandparent had frequent visitation with the child for at least one year.3

​1 TN ST § 36-6-306(b)(1), (c)
2 TN ST § 36-6-306(b)(1), (b)(4)
3 TN ST § 36-6-306(b)(2)