Relatives besides parents who may have visitation rights

Divorced parents generally deal with custody and visitation questions between each other. Sometimes courts award one parent primary custody of a child, or both parents may share custody or visitation rights. However, under certain circumstances, a Louisiana court may grant other family members visitation rights.

According to FindLaw, state law gives special notice to siblings of children involved in a custody case or to grandparents of the children. In some custody situations, one parent is not available to share custody of the child. The parent might have died or is currently serving time in prison. In these circumstances, courts are willing to consider visitation rights for siblings or the parents of an incarcerated or deceased parent.

However, courts do not automatically award visitation rights to other relatives. A judge must determine whether granting visitation rights to a sibling or a grandparent would be in the best interests of the child or children in question. In some cases, it takes extraordinary circumstances, such as drug abuse on the part of a parent, for a court to grant visitation rights.

Generally, when determining visitation rights for relatives, Louisiana judges use the criteria spelled out in Louisiana Civil Code Article 136. The factors listed in this law include how long the child had enjoyed a relationship with the relative seeking visitation rights, whether the relative can best provide the guidance that the child needs and the mental and physical state of the relative.

In addition, the child involved in the custody case might express a preference for whether a sibling or a grandparent may have visitation rights. Though a judge may take a preference of a child into account, the judge will only give the preference significant weight if the child is old and mature enough to express a well-reasoned preference for a relative.

Even with all these factors considered, Louisiana law still mandates that a judge keeps in mind that a parent retains the constitutional right to raise his or her own offspring and is traditionally the best person to determine the best interests of a child. A judge cannot easily set aside this right if the parent does not want the court to grant visitation rights to other relatives.