In Maine, grandparents' rights are spelled out in a statute, known as the Grandparent Visitation Act. Visitation rights are based on one of the child's parents being deceased or on the grandparent having a "sufficient existing relationship" with the grandchild. In the absence of such a relationship, a grandparent may still be awarded visitation if it is proven that the grandparent has made a "sufficient effort" to establish such a relationship.
It is stipulated that grandparent visitation cannot interfere with the parent's relationship with the child or impair the parent's "rightful authority."
Factors to Be Considered
In awarding visitation, the court must consider a number of factors, including the following:
- The age of the child
- The grandparent-child relationship
- The preference of the child, if old enough to express a preference
- The child's current living arrangements and the desirability of maintaining continuity
- The stability of any proposed living arrangements for the child
- The motivation of the parties involved and their capacities to give the child love, affection and guidance
- The child's adjustment to the existing situation
- The capacity of the parent and grandparent to cooperate in child care
- The willingness of both parties to resolve disputes
- Any other factor impacting the physical and psychological well-being of the child.
More Provisions of the Law
The court is also instructed to consider a grandparent's conviction for a sex offense, though such a conviction does not automatically disqualify the grandparent from visitation.
Maine statutes provide for the appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child if deemed necessary. The court may also refer the parties to mediation.
Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents.
Constitutionality of the Maine Law
Following the Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, Maine's Grandparent Visitation Act was challenged as unconstitutional in the case of Rideout v.
Riendeau. In this case, the court affirmed the principles at work in the federal case -- that fit parents are presumed to make decisions that are in the best interests of their children. The justices ruled, however, that the court can intervene for an "urgent reason." Because the grandparents in Rideout v. Riendeau had served as parents to their grandchildren for extended periods of time, the court ruled that legal action was justified to preserve the relationship.
In a 2003 case, Robichaud v. Pariseau, the court ruled against Robichaud, the grandmother. In an affidavit, she described visits with the grandchildren lasting from one day to one week, as well as with periods of daily contact with her two older grandchildren. The lower court found that Robichaud's contacts were typical of "a connected, extended family" and did not meet the"urgent reasons" standard spelled out in Rideout v. Riendeau. On appeal, the Maine Supreme Court agreed, saying, "Robichaud's contact with her grandchildren was not extraordinary."
Read the Maine statutes. In addition, Pine Tree Legal Assistance maintains a page about grandparents' rights. More information can be found on the website of Maine's Legal Services for the Elderly.
Disclaimer: Law is constantly being changed, either by legislative action (statutory law) or by court decisions (case law). The information contained in articles such as this one should be considered as a starting point only. Most grandparents seeking visitation will find it prudent to seek legal advice.