Section 26B: Grandparent visitation; sibling visitation; appeal of decision to deny visitation
Section 26B. (a) Whenever a child is placed in family foster care, the court and the department shall ensure that a grandparent of a child who is in the department's care or is the subject of a petition under this chapter shall, upon that grandparent's request, have access to reasonable visitation and that the department establish a schedule for that visitation, unless it is determined by the court or the department that grandparent visitation is not in the child's best interests. In determining the best interests of the child, the court or the department shall consider the goal of the service plan and the relationship between the grandparent and the child's parents or legal guardian. Upon recommendation by the department or on its own accord, the court may establish reasonable conditions governing grandparent visitation, including requiring that the grandparent be restrained from revealing the whereabouts of the child's placement.
A grandparent of a child who is placed with the department voluntarily under clause (1) of subsection (a) of section 23 or placed in the custody of the department under an adoption surrender under section 2 of chapter 210, who is denied grandparent visitation by the department, may appeal through the department's fair hearing process. A grandparent may appeal the decision reached through the department's fair hearing process by filing a petition in the probate and family court for grandparent visitation. That grandparent shall have the right to court review by trial de novo.
A grandparent of a child who is the subject of a petition under this chapter and placed in the custody of the department may file a petition for visitation in the court which has committed the child to the custody of the department.
(b) The court or the department shall, whenever reasonable and practical and based upon a determination of the best interests of the child, ensure that children placed in foster care shall have access to and visitation with siblings in other foster or pre-adoptive homes or in the homes of parents or extended family members throughout the period of placement in the care and custody of the department, or after such placements, if the children or their siblings are separated through adoption or long-term or short-term placements in foster care.
The court or the department shall determine, at the time of the initial placements wherein children and their siblings are separated through placements in foster, pre-adoptive or adoptive care, that sibling visitation rights be implemented through a schedule of visitations or supervised visitations, to be arranged and monitored through the appropriate public or private agency, and with the participation of the foster, pre-adoptive or adoptive parents, or extended family members, and the child, if reasonable, and other parties who are relevant to the preservation of sibling relationships and visitation rights.
A child in foster care or sibling of a child placed voluntarily under clause (1) of subsection (a) of section 23 or under an adoption surrender under section 2 of chapter 210, who are denied visitation rights by the department, may appeal through the department's fair hearing process. The child or sibling may appeal the decision reached through the department's fair hearing process by filing a petition in the probate and family court for visitation. That child or sibling shall have the right to court review by trial de novo.
For children in the custody of the department pursuant to petition under this chapter, a child, sibling, parent, legal guardian or the department may file a petition for sibling visitation in the court committing the child to the custody of the department.
Periodic reviews shall evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of sibling visitations.
Any child over 12 years of age may request visitation with siblings who have been separated and placed in care or have been adopted in a foster or adoptive home other than where the child resides.
(c) A parent: (i) against whom a decree to dispense with consent to adoption has been entered under clause 4 of subsection (b) of section 26 or section 3 of chapter 210 or (ii) who has signed a voluntary adoption surrender under section 2 of chapter 210 shall not have the rights provided under this section as to the child who is the subject of that decree or surrender.
(d) A child, parent, guardian, grandparent or the department may appeal a decision or order of the trial court to the appeals court under this section if such person or the department is a party thereto. The claim of appeal shall be filed in the office of the clerk or register of the trial court within 30 days following the court's decision or order. Thereafter, the appeal shall be governed by the Massachusetts Rules of Appellate Procedure.