Grandparents and Grandchildren (FAQ)


By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)

Learn about grandparent's rights and how a grandparent can ask a court to allow contact with a grandchild.
Resource Information

Do I have a right to contact with my grandchild?

Most grandparents have contact with grandchildren through the child’s parent. Parents can choose to limit or cut off contact between grandparents and grandchildren. There are two ways for a grandparent to ask a court to allow contact with a grandchild.

1. Courts can give grandparents the right to contact with their grandchildren over the objection of the child’s parent. A court may give a grandparent the right to contact a grandchild if the grandparent proves two things: 

  • A grandparent must show that the parent is unfit; and 

  • That it is in the child’s best interest to have contact with the grandparent. 

To ask a court for contact with a grandchild, a grandparent must file a petition with the court.  A grandparent who has never seen a grandchild might choose this option. Or a grandparent with a grandchild in the foster care system might choose this option.

2. Courts can give a grandparent who has cared for a grandchild a parental interest.  A grandparent can file a case to ask for a parenting plan between the grandparent and the parent or parents.  Or a grandparent can join a parenting plan case that was already filed between the parents. To get a parental interest the grandparent must show the court two things: 

  • That grandparent has acted as a parent; and
  • That the parent has done something contrary to their own parent-child relationship. The grandparent does not have to show that the parent is unfit. You can only use this option if your grandchild has lived with you, and you acted as a parent.

How do I ask the court to help me?

Whether you want to visit your grandchild or have that grandchild live with you, you must file court paperwork.  What paperwork you file depends on your situation. It is a good idea to talk to an attorney if you want to ask a court to allow contact with your grandchild.

What happens if someone adopts my grandchild?

If a stepparent or another grandparent adopts your grandchild, you can ask a court for contact with your grandchild.  If anyone other than a stepparent or another grandparent adopts your grandchild, you can’t ask the court for contact.

Find more resources using our interactive Legal Guide.
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