Massachusetts law about grandparents' visitation rights

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

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.119, § 39D Visitation rights to certain grandparents

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.

Martinez v. Martinez-Cintron, 93 Mass. App. Ct. 202 (2018)
When a "grandparent's petition for visitation...does not sufficiently allege why visitation is necessary to protect the child from significant harm," a judge must allow a parent's motion to dismiss.

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 , Nolo.com
Provides a general introduction to the topic and a discussion of the Troxel decision

Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
"The Commission’s primary purpose is to serve as a resource to the Commonwealth on issues affecting grandparents and all relatives raising grandchildren." Includes links to legal resources.

A Resource Guide for Massachusetts Grandparents Raising Their Grandchildren, Executive Office of Elder Affairs, October 2013
Knowing what services and programs are available and where to access information is essential in managing a new family situation and parenting responsibilities. This Guide was developed to assist grandparents and other kinship caregivers to locate and obtain needed resources.

Print sources

"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 Traci 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: 

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Last updated: July 26, 2019
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