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Louisiana's grandparents' rights may be confusing

When it comes to family law issues, it is not only the parents that encounter these. In some situations, grandparents might be faced with limited access to their grandchildren. Whether it is related to a pending or recently finalized divorce or not, grandparents should understand that they have rights afforded to them in these matters. There are three provisions under Louisiana's family law governing grandparents' rights. These laws have different purposes but also complicate compliance.

The first law addresses grandparents who lost visitation rights through their child or their spouse, and it is intended to assist families in trouble. This law takes precedence over other laws on this issue. It allows visitation where that parent died, became incarcerated or was declared legally incompetent. When the parent is incarcerated, visitation is allowed if the grandchild's parents never married. This also applies to the child's brothers and sisters.

Visitation is permitted if the children's parents are legally separated or living apart for six months. However, parents of intact families still have rights when determining who has contact with their children. Courts consider the child's best interests when ruling on this issue and other custody matters.

A second law governs visitation rights available to relatives by blood or kinship and to grandparents under extraordinary circumstances, such as a parent abusing drugs. State courts have also ruled that the child's parent's death, imprisonment or interdiction are extraordinary circumstances. This law is intended to promote continuity in the child's life.

A court must review the length and quality of the relationship between the child and the relative, their ability to give guidance, the child's preference, the relative's readiness to encourage the child's relationship with their parent and the child and relative's mental and physical health.

The last law is limited. Grandparents lose their rights to visitation under the state's Child Code in adoption cases unless they are the parents of a deceased parent or that parent gave up the right to object to adoption.

Grandparents bear the burden of showing that denial of visitation would be harmful to the child. An attorney can assist families with asserting their rights to visitation and custody and help protect the child's best interests.

Source: The Spruce, "Grandparents' rights in Louisiana," By Susan Adcox, Accessed July 28, 2017

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