In Utah, grandparents can petition the court for an order of parent-time or visitation with their grandchildren. This is generally only necessary when one or both parents are denying the grandparents access to their grandchildren. The parent’s decision can be overcome if a number of factors are satisfied regarding the grandparents’ relationship with their grandchildren. These factors include:
- (a) the petitioner is a fit and proper person to have visitation with the grandchild;
- (b) visitation with the grandchild has been denied or unreasonably limited;
- (c) the parent is unfit or incompetent;
- (d) 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;
- (e) the petitioner’s child, who is a parent of the grandchild, has died, or has become a noncustodial parent through divorce or legal separation;
- (f) the petitioner’s child, who is a parent of the grandchild, has been missing for an extended period of time; or
- (g) visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild.
Unfortunately, a 2015 Utah Supreme Court decision cast serious doubt about the future of grandparent’s rights. Without giving exact guidelines, the High Court said a grandparent will likely only win visitation rights over a parent’s objection if the grandparent has actually acted as the grandchild’s parent. In other words, the grandchild has lived in the grandparent’s home under the exclusive care of the grandparent. The Court suggested that may create a strong enough bond between grandparent and grandchild to allow grandparent’s visitation rights. Otherwise, the Court suggested there is not a strong enough reason for the government to overrule a parent’s decision, no matter how much it may hurt those involved.