If you are a grandparent who is not being allowed visits with your grandchildren, or if your grandchildren have been removed from the parent(s) by court order, it is important to know just what your rights are under Nebraska law.
When can grandparents in Nebraska seek visitation?
Grandparents can seek court ordered visitation with their grandchildren in certain circumstances. Under Nebraska statutes, a grandparent can file a case in district court asking the court to order regular visitation with their grandchildren in the following circumstances:
The child’s parent or parents are deceased; the child’s parents are divorced or a petition for divorce has been filed, is still pending, but no decree has been entered; or the parents have never been married but paternity has been legally established.
Remember, however, that this is for district court visitation actions. If the grandchild is under the jurisdiction of a separate juvenile court or county court sitting as a juvenile court, the procedure for seeking grandparent visitation is different.
How can grandparents obtain a court order for visitation?
If one of the circumstances above has been met, a grandparent may file a Complaint for Grandparent Visitation in District Court.
To be successful in convincing the court to grant grandparent visitation, grandparents must prove: The existence of a significant beneficial relationship; that it is in the best interests of the child that the relationship continue; and that the visitation with the grandparent will not adversely interfere with the parent-child relationship.
Ultimately, the trial court has the discretion to grant or deny visitation regardless of whether or not these statutory criteria for grandparent visitation have been met.
What if the child is involved in a Juvenile Court case?
A District Court cannot order a grandparent visitation as long as the Juvenile Court has jurisdiction over the grandchildren. In that circumstance, while the Juvenile Court action is pending, the grandparent must seek relief in the Juvenile Court.
To establish grandparent visitation through Juvenile court, the grandparent must first file a Complaint to Intervene in the Juvenile Court case. Grandparents can intervene in Juvenile Court proceedings involving their grandchildren as a matter of right. However, any right grandparents might have to visitation while their grandchildren are under the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court is subject to a showing that such visitation is in the best interests of the children.
Grandparents should also be aware that the Juvenile Court can award temporary custody to the grandparents upon a finding that they qualify as “reputable citizen(s) of good moral character” or a “suitable family.”
Another key point to keep in mind: a grandparent’s legal capacity to intervene into a juvenile court proceeding and/or request visitation or placement depends on one’s legal status as a grandparent. That status ceases if the parental rights of the parent through whom grandparental status is claimed are terminated or relinquished. In other words, if your child no longer has parental rights, you have no grandparent rights because, in the eyes of the law, you are no longer the grandparent to that child.
Take action early. While grandparents in Nebraska do have certain legal rights, it is important to take action early. If you delay, you may risk the relationship with your grandchild and your legal right to maintain that relationship. The best thing to do is to immediately talk to a lawyer who is experienced in this focused area of the law.