Grandparents begin the process by filing a complaint and filling out a form called "Affidavit of Care and Custody." In this form the grandparents must describe the nature of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, tell why contact was denied or curtailed, describe current access to the grandchild and describe the "significant harm" to the child's "health, safety or welfare" that could result from lack of contact.
Several cases have addressed the issue. In the 2002 case of Blixt v. Blixt, the justices emphasized that the burden of proof lies with the grandparents. They described two ways in which grandparents can win visitation. First, they can show a "significant preexisting relationship" that would result in "significant harm" to the child if discontinued. Second, in the absence of such a relationship, grandparents may still be awarded visitation if they can prove that it is necessary to protect the child, again from "significant harm." Although few cases fall into the second category, in the 2007 case of Sher v. Desmond, a grandmother who had never known her grandson was granted visitation after introducing evidence showing that the child's mother had disappeared after being the victim of domestic abuse. The court ruled that the grandmother should be granted contact in order to monitor the child, to be sure that he was not being abused or being subjected to scenes of abuse.
Adoption ends grandparents rights unless the adopting party is a stepparent. See Massachusetts statute.
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