In certain circumstances, grandparents whose grandchildren live in Tennessee can petition the court for visitation and custody. This often occurs in cases where the parents have divorced or one or both parents cannot provide for the children.

If your grandchildren’s parents have limited your access to the children, or if they are no longer able to care for them, explore your legal options.

Seeking legal visitation

To petition the court for visitation of your grandchildren, one or more of these circumstances must be present:

  • The court has been unable to find at least one of the child’s parents for at least six months.
  • You have grandparent visitation rights in another state.
  • The child’s parents have divorced, have separated or never married.
  • The child has lived with you for at least one year.
  • One or both of the child’s parents is no longer living.
  • You have had a relationship with the child for at least one year, and this relationship serves the child’s well-being.

You must also prove that losing the grandparent relationship will cause your grandchild emotional and/or physical harm.

Seeking grandchild custody

You can apply for custody of your grandchild if:

  • The child’s parents consent to custody.
  • The child’s parents have died.
  • The child’s parents cannot provide a safe and healthy living environment.
  • The child has already lived with you for at least a year.

With this type of petition, you must prove that you can financially, emotionally and physically support the child as well as maintain healthy connections with other family members, school and community.

Whether you are already caring for your grandchild or you have concerns about his or her well-being in the current home situation, you may have legal recourse. In some cases, grandparents can legally adopt their grandchildren in addition to seeking legal visitation and/or custody, sometimes without the required waiting period and home study that Tennessee requires for non-family adoptions.