Massachusetts law about grandparents' visitation rights

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

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Massachusetts laws

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

Forms

Selected cases

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."

Frazier v Frazier, 96 Mass. App. Ct. 775 (2019)
When the grandparent did have a preexisting relationship with the grandchildren, a judge must allow a parent's motion to dismiss when the petition does not "plausibly suggest that the children will be significantly harmed unless the mother's right to determine what is in her children's best interest is overridden."

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 the grandparent did not have a preexisting relationship with the grandchildren, and 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

Do grandparents have visitation rights in Massachusetts? DivorceNet by NOLO.
Learn about grandparents’ rights to court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren.

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

Grandparent visitation, MassLegalHelp, February 2021.
Explains in clear language when and how a grandparent can ask for a court order for visitation.

Grandparents raising grandchildren, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Learn more about the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

"Grandparents, you are not alone" informational series, Mass. Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, 2019.
A series of one-page tip sheets that "may answer some of your questions about complicated issues such as alcohol and drugs, custody, when DCF is involved and more."

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.

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).

Child welfare practice in Massachusetts, MCLE, loose-leaf.  Chapter 7, Section 7.4.4 Visits with grandparents and others; Exhibit 7L –Motion for grandparent visitation.

"The extent of grandparent visitation in New England," by Erik Shaughnessy. 24 Massachusetts Family Law Journal 64 (June-July 2006).

Family law advocacy for law and moderate income litigants, 3rd ed., MCLE, 2018. Chapter 9, pp. 291-293, Grandparents' rights.

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

"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.

LexisNexis practice guide. Massachusetts family law, annual, LexisNexis, Section 8.17 Grandparent Visitation.

Massachusetts divorce law practice manual, 4th ed., MCLE, loose-leaf. Chapter 11, Section 11.9 Rights of Grandparents and Others.

Massachusetts domestic relations, 5th ed., LexisNexis, 2012 with supplement. Section 8-101 Petition for visitation; Section 8-102 Grandparents’ complaint for visitation; Section 8-103 Complaints for visitation by de facto; Section 8-104 Venue.

Massachusetts Practice:

Paternity and the law of parentage in Massachusetts, 3rd ed., MCLE, Section 9.9 Grandparent Visitation; Exhibit 9V – Petition for grandparent(s) visitation; Exhibit 9W – Answer to complaint for grandparent visitation.

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Last updated: November 25, 2022
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