Learning the Rights of Grandparents in Family Law Cases

Divorce and child custody are the most common family disputes that may involve the child’s parents, but not every time. While parents are often considered the main figures in child custody, grandparents still have their rights for visitation and even custody in some cases. However, these privileges may still vary on a state-by-state basis so when seeking visitation and custody rights, grandparents should consult their family lawyers from their individual state before taking any further action.

The following information provides an overview of the major rights that are entitled to grandparents and the requirements for awarding their claims to visitation and custody.       

Custody Rights

In most states, the court often prefers to address the parents’ rights towards the custody for their children more than anyone else. While in some states, only people with parental responsibility (biological/adoptive parents, step-parents, or guardians) are eligible for filing custody. Hence, for grandparents, seeking the legal right to have responsibility for and make decisions about a child is limited to the following instances:

  • If both parents are deceased.

  • If both parents are no longer fit for financial support and child care.

  • If both parents give their consent to the child’s grandparents.

  • If both parents have abandoned the child for good.

  • If the child has been living with their grandparents for at least a year and more.

Take note that the court often extends the qualifications by looking into the grandparents’ age, health condition, and capacity to financially support the children before granting the petition for custody.

Visitation Rights

Grandparents would generally give anything just to spend time with their grandchildren; however, families can get complicated sometimes. In circumstances of family conflict and division, parents are most likely to limit the grandparent’s contact with their children. In response to this, the court is now preventing the parents to object and stand in the way unless the reason for objection is valid.

In most cases, the court may grant the grandparents’ visitation rights concerning that the children may somehow need interaction with their grandparents. Visitation rights have been established in the majority of states for more than 40 years now. The main purpose of these rights is to ensure that children can experience emotional and developmental benefits from having grandparents in their life.

The visitation rights can be granted as long as there are no other concerns such as toxic health issues or child abuse records. Hence, the court will only grant the visitation rights if they prove that it is in the best interest of the child.

Moreover, there are additional factors to consider when determining the grandparents’ visitation rights.

  • The relationship between grandparents, parents, and children

  • The child’s interest in grandparents’ visitation rights

  • The frequency of contact between grandparents and children and its effect on the parent-children relationship

  • Any abusive history of grandparents towards children