Senior America's Information Magazine


Grandparent rights

Grandparent Visitation Rights with minor children

Grandparent rights and grandchildren - There have always been those special cases where problems exist between parents and grandparents over the right to see and spend time with grandchildren, there are more cases now than there have ever been. 

The increase in the number of cases where grandparents are seeking court ordered visitation rights is probably inevitable.  

When one considers the increase in children born out of wedlock, the increase in the divorce rate, an increase in the propensity for a single custodial parent to move to another location, and a general decrease in societyís valuation of grandparent relationships, the predictable result would be less tolerance of the grandparentsí desire to stay connected to the grandchildren.  This is especially true in the cases mentioned above.

Fortunately, the law has stepped in and placed laws on the books in all 50 states that help protect grandparents rights.  There is however, little uniformity between the laws, and your rights as a grandparent will vary depending upon what state you live in and what state the custodial parent lives.

Grandparent rights statutes will vary but can generally be broken into two large camps, which are primarily defined as to whether the childís parents are together or not.  Therefore, while the right to visit grandchildren is largely protected, it is not absolute.

Lenient grandparent rights states

More lenient states allow grandparents the right to petition for visitation rights, regardless of whether the parents are together, even if they both object.  Some states allow other family members or even unrelated parties to file such a petition if they can show that they have and will continue to have a strong and vital relationship with the child.  

Examples of each would be aunts, uncles, or former foster parents.  These states lean more towards what is in the best interest of the child rather than the absolute right of the parents to raise a child under the circumstances that they see fit. 

Keep in mind that it isnít very easy for an unrelated party to get such a petition granted.  That party must show that a continuation of the relationship is in the best interest of the child, not just that it is in the best interest of the adult seeking the petition.

Restrictive grandparent rights states

Other states give more credence to the parentsí viewpoint as to what is in the best interest of the child.  In those states, only grandparents may seek visitation rights and even grandparents may only seek those rights where the parents are not together.  

When the parents are together and both parents refuse to grant visitation, these states infer that there are not any relationship difficulties that are causing the rift, and that the parents are jointly acting in the best interest of the child.

In cases where the parents are not together, grandparent are often granted visitation with the grandchildren, though the particular circumstances can vary greatly.

In either case, grandparents that have had little to do with the grandchildren in the past, have significantly less chance of being granted court ordered visitation.  

The court reviews each case independently, has a great deal of discretion, and strongly considers the previous relationship.  Grandparents that have had little to do with the grandchild in the past will have a hard time showing that their relationship is vital to the childís development. 

Since a former relationship is strongly considered, you should always seek to build a strong relationship with the grandchild from the beginning.  Coming in an out of the childís life or taking little initiative to stay in contact with the child could even be viewed as potentially harmful to the child.

Avoiding the court battle

Since visitation rights are almost always pursued in the wake of a rift in the relationship between one or more of the parents and the grandparents, it may be possible to solve all problems by mending that relationship.  

There is seldom one side to these rifts and even if you think that you are completely right, the other side seldom sees it the same way you do.  The parent often has an emotional reason that cause them to refuse grandparent visitation.

Itís hard to say what those reasons may be, but in many cases, itís a way of getting back at the non-custodial parent.  Other times, the custodial parent may view you as a threat or resent something that you have said or done in the past.  

In divorce cases, families often take sides and emotions flare up throughout the entire family.  When such emotions come to the surface, things can be said or done that alienate the non-related spouse. 

Snide comments, accusations, or those made in anger or sympathy of one spouse, are often said to or in front of the grandchildren.  Other times, they are merely overheard.  These comments, whether true or not, are often repeated back to the parent and this will certainly cause some very hard feelings.

Similar comments made to other adults can also come back to haunt you.  Leave the relationship problems to your kids and make it known that regardless of the circumstances, you will stay out of it and honor both of them as parents of your grandchildren.  

If negative comments have been made, the best avenue is simply to apologize and then stay out of it.  This may alleviate enough tension to allow visitation without having to resort to court filings.

Grandparents can also get much more blame than they deserve.  While the parentís lives are in chaos, they often look for someone else to blame.  In such cases, the blame can easily fall to the grandparents for ďraising such an awful childĒ.  

Other times, the parent assumes that the grandparents must be attacking when they are not.  In either case, you still have to address the problem by making affirmative statements that support both parents equally.


If it looks as though you cannot solve the problems on your own, suggest professional mediation.  In mediation, both parties agree on a neutral third party to listen to both sides and come up with an agreement that both sides can live with.  

Neither side wins completely, but both manage to stay out of court and at least have a partial win.  Mediators can consider feelings and circumstances that arenít strictly governed by the law, whereas a judge is required to consider applicable law.  

By going through mediation, there is also less potential for hard feelings and it helps keep the children out of an ever-worsening situation.

Divorce decree

Another way to avoid having to petition the court for visitation is to have it built into the divorce decree.  If you think that the custodial parent will likely cause a problem, suggest to your child that they seek court ordered visitation as part of the decree.  

There are usually less arguments over visitation at this time, and it will prevent future problems as the custodial parent moves forward into a new life.  It can also give you additional leverage if something should happen to your child before they hit the age of majority.

In conclusion    

Remember that your kids and their spouses are the connection between you and your grandchildren.  The in-laws may also play an important role in how you manage those grandparent relationships.  Make sure that you create good relationships with them all and donít let other family problems get in the way.


Disclaimer:  These pages are created to inform and educate the public only.  They are not and should not be considered legal opinions or advice.  You do not and cannot have any client-attorney relationship with SeniorMag or any of its employees.  You should not act upon legal advice found on SeniorMag and are advised to seek professional counsel before taking any action based upon information found on this site. 



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