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Definition of Family – Grandparents Seeking Visitation

Posted on Wed Apr 16, 2014, on Guardianship

From our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: Definition of Family for Grandparents Seeking Visitation

Most Recently Updated July 14, 2018.

“I am a grandparent. I have guardianship over my daughter who is incapacitated. She has a minor child who lives with the father. I want to see my grandchild. What should I do?”

Definition of Family for Grandparents Seeking Visitation

Definition of Family for Grandparents Seeking Visitation

It was not long ago when the definition of a family, and to whom a court would allow visitation to minor children, was simple; biological mother and biological father. Then times changed.

Arrington v. Thrash – Case Example that Set the Stage for Grandparents

Reading the facts and the decision in Arrington v. Thrash , from the Mississippi Court of Appeals allow you to see the law change before your eyes. The court ruled that the facts and circumstances in that case justified an award of grandparent visitation comparable to that which would have been given to a noncustodial parent. The court reasoned that this decision was in the best interest of the minor child.

If your involvement in a case is over guardianship, this case also shows the factors that a court might examine in determining whom should be the principal guardian of a minor, or for an incapacitated person. It is reasonable to argue that under the right circumstances, it might be in the best interest of the child for grandparents to have principal custody over a child, even if the biological parent is alive, but less able to provide for the child.


On September 3, 2005, 19-year old Jonathan was cleaning up Hurricane Katrina debris at his parents’ home with a Bobcat when it turned over, killing him. A short time later Allison contacted the grandparents, informing them that Jonathan was the father of Payton, born in 2005. She had not told Jonathan of the child. A DNA test confirmed the paternity, and a relationship began between the grandparents, Allison and Payton.

The story continues . . . 

Beginning when Payton was four months old the grandparents regularly kept Payton in their home on weekends and holidays, sometimes for a week or more at a time. Visitation included holidays and family trips and eventually the grandparents had Payton at their house for nearly one year. Over the 4.5 years when the grandparents had custodial visitation, Allison gave birth to two other illegitimate children. The grandparents took Payton, Allison and the two younger siblings on occasional vacation trips and contributed financial to Payton’s support and aided in obtaining Jonathan’s Social Security benefits for Payton. Payton had her own room at the parent’s house and had birthday and holiday parties with them each year.

In 2010 the grandparents contacted the Mississippi Deterrent of Human Services concerning the children’s living conditions. Allison cut off their visitation rights.

The grandparents took action . . .

The grandparents filed an action for grandparent visitation. The chancellor determined that the parents relationship with Payton was a viable one and found the grandparents were entitle to visitation because their child was deceased and because they had a close relationship with the child.

Later, Allison appealed the decision, but it was upheld with the court finding that it be in Payton’s best interest that the grandparents have visitation rights. Factors sited were the time the grandparents had spent caring for Payton since she was 4 months old, their extensive presence in her life, the viable relationship they had established with her and their statement that they understood that they were not to undermine Allison in raising Payton.


Pennsylvania does recognize grandparents’ rights to visitation if there is a similar close relationship. You should probably contact a Family Law Attorney for further information. However, to prevent anything like this from happening between your children and your parents, you can also plan ahead and speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. 

More Planning Questions?

Guardianship is only a piece of the Estate Planning process. By all means, if you want to learn more, please read my more detailed article, Estate Planning Everything You Need to Know.

In Conclusion: Definition of Family for Grandparents Seeking Visitation

I hope that this article was helpful in explaining grandparent relationships. Further, I included links to even more detailed information on my website so you can learn more. Therefore, please contact me and let me know how I did. Certainly, your comments and questions are welcome!

Let our Estate Planning lawyers help walk you through what can be a confusing process. To begin with, call to speak to one of our experienced estate planning lawyers.  By all means, our lawyers are ready to answer your questions. In fact, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. Ultimately our goal is to make the process as painless as possible!

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