Guide Massachusetts law about grandparents' visitation rights

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases and web sources on grandparents' visitation rights law

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.119, s.39D Visitation Rights To Certain Grandparents of Unmarried Minor Children


Selected case law

Blixt v. Blixt , 437 Mass. 649 (2002)
A parent's decision regarding grandparent visitation must be given "presumptive validity." To obtain visitation, "the grandparents must allege and prove that the failure to grant visitation will cause the child significant harm by adversely affecting the child's health, safety, or welfare."

Guardianship of Norman , 41 Mass. App. Ct. 402 (1996)
Statute requires judge to make specific and complete written findings that visitation is in child's best interests.

Sher v. Desmond , 70 Mass.App.Ct. 270 (2007)
Although there is a presumption of parental fitness to decide whether or not to involve grandparents in a child' life, the state has a compelling interest in protecting children from harm. In this case, the court applied the Blixt standard and held that while the grandmother had no previous relationship with the child, she may sue for visitation to protect the child from significant harm. "The grandmother's allegations [of abuse] rebut the presumption of the father's fitness, at the very least, to decide alone whether to permit visitation."

Troxel v. Granville , 530 U.S. 57, 147 L.Ed. 2d 49, 120 S.Ct. 2054 (2000)
In a 6-3 decision, the Court struck down a Washington state judge's granting of grandparent visitation over the wishes of a parent, but did not declare all such statutes unconstitutional. Both sides found supporting arguments in the six separate opinions the Court issued.

Web sources

Grandparent and Caretaker Visitation Rights ,
Provides a general introduction to the topic and a discussion of the Troxel decision

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren of Massachusetts

A Resource Guide for Massachusetts Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren  
Executive Office of Elder Affairs, October 2013

"After Troxel v. Granville: Grandparent Visitation in Massachusetts," by Fern L. Frolin and Jennifer A. Fabriele. 44 Boston Bar Journal 8 (September/October 2000)

"The Extent of Grandparent Visitation in New England," by Erik Shaughnessy. 24 Massachusetts Family Law Journal 64 (June-July 2006)

"Grandparent Visitation Rights in Massachusetts After Troxel: Blixt v. Blixt," by Jeffrey J. Trapani. 38 New England Law Review 759 (Spring 2004)

Grandparents' Rights , by Tracy Truly. 3d ed. Sphinx Pub. Co., 2005

"Grandparents' Visitation Rights Where Child's Parents Are Deceased, or Where Status of Parents Is Unspecified." 69 ALR5th 1

"Grandparents' Visitation Rights Where Child's Parents Are Living." 71 ALR5th 99

Massachusetts Practice, West Group, with supplements: 

Last update: January 22, 2018


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