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Grandparent rights can be complicated in Louisiana

Grandparents' rights to visitation with grandchildren may be an important child custody issue for many families in Louisiana. Three separate laws often make this issue complicated.

One law addresses situations in which grandparents lost their normal means of seeing their grandchild through their own child, who is the grandchild's parent. Grandparents may receive visitation rights if the child of the grandparent, and the grandchild's parent, is deceased, in jail, legally incompetent or were never married. These rights also apply to the children's siblings. Visitation may be granted if the child's parents are legally separated or living apart for at least six months.

However, this law protects the rights of parents in intact families to decide who can visit their children. Courts, nonetheless, must always weigh the best interests of the child. Grandparents do bear the burden of showing that the lack of visitation would be bad for the child.

Another law governs visitation rights available to blood relatives or relatives of affinity, such as grandparents, when there are extraordinary circumstances. The law defines a parent abusing a controlled dangerous substance as an extraordinary circumstance. Louisiana courts have also added the death or imprisonment of the child's parent as extraordinary circumstances.

Courts, before granting visitation under this second law, must review the length and quality of the relationship between the child and their grandparent or other relative, the relative's ability to provide guidance, the child's preference, the relative's eagerness to encourage the child's relationship with their parent and the child and relative's mental and physical health.

The first law is intended to protect the child while the second law was designed to encourage continuity in the child's life. Where there is a conflict between these two laws, the first law governs.

The third law relates to adoption. Grandparents lose visitation rights if the child is adopted unless the grandparents are the parents of a dead parent or a parent forfeited their right adoption right.

Source: The Spruce, "Grandparents' rights in Louisiana," By Susan Adcox, Accessed Dec. 3, 2017

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