In July of 2013, the Utah Supreme Court severely limited a grandparent's right to visitation in its Jones vs. Jones decision. Prior to the Jones case grandparents could petition a court and often get visitation by showing one of the following:
- the petitioner is a fit and proper person to have visitation with the grandchild;
- visitation with the grandchild has been denied or unreasonably limited;
- the parent is unfit or incompetent;
- the petitioner has acted as the grandchild's custodian or caregiver, or otherwise has had a substantial relationship with the grandchild, and the loss or cessation of that relationship is likely to cause harm to the grandchild;
- the petitioner's child, who is a parent of the grandchild, has died, or has become a noncustodial parent through divorce or legal separation;
- the petitioner's child, who is a parent of the grandchild, has been missing for an extended period of time; or
- visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild.
Impact of Jones vs. Jones
As a result, now it is possible, and even probable, that a grandparent meet all of the above listed criteria, and still not be awarded visitation. Indeed, a grandparent now has the burden to convince the court that the child will be harmed if grandparent visitation is not awarded. The court even went as far as to state that even though a child might be sad that he or she doesn't get to spend time with the child's grandparents, this fact does not meet the level of "harm" the court is looking for and does not justify state interference.
Jones vs. Jones flipped prior practice and court decisions on their head. Where before Jones a grandparent could be awarded visitation by simply proving one of the many criteria, now due to the Jones case, even meeting all of the criteria might not be enough.
Contact Pearson Law Firm for a free consultation with an experienced Utah divorce attorney/grandparent visitation attorney. Call 801-888-0991