There’s no denying the importance that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren. Many studies have proven that this relationship increases happiness, social awareness, and emotional intelligence — for both parties.
In a perfect world, all grandparents would be free to spend as much quality time with their grandkids as they want. Unfortunately, the reality for some families is very different. Separation, divorce, substance abuse, and other issues can drive a wedge between generations.
This leads us to an important question: Do grandparents have rights when it comes to visiting (or requesting custody of) their grandchildren?
Keep reading and we’ll discuss everything you need to know about grandparents rights.
Do Grandparents Have Rights?
Let’s start with the obvious question, because the answer may surprise you.
Many people are shocked when they meet with a lawyer and learn that there’s no federal law that protects grandparents rights. Family law is governed by each state; however, none of the 50 states has specific laws about grandparents visitation rights.
What does this mean if a parent has reduced or severed the grandparent’s contact with their grandchildren? Are grandparents doomed to a fate of prolonged separation from their beloved grandkids?
Not at all! If you consult with a family lawyer in your area, you’ll learn that there are several legal paths you can pursue to reestablish this precious relationship. To get started, you’ll need to establish two important criteria:
- Standing (an existing or attempted relationship with your grandchildren)
- It’s in the children’s best interests to visit or live with their grandparents
Let’s take a closer look at each of these aspects.
The first thing the courts will consider is the existing relationship you have with your grandchildren. They’ll want to see pictures, videos, letters, emails, text messages, and other proof of an established relationship. The more evidence you can present, the stronger your case will be.
What if one or both parents have terminated contact between grandparents and grandchildren?
Again, you’ll need to show evidence that you’ve tried to reconcile and that you want to remain part of your grandkids’ lives. Document all attempts to reconnect with your kids and grandkids, including the responses if your requests are denied.
It’s important to note that the death of one of the parents automatically establishes standing for the grandparents. If both parents are alive, you’ll need to follow the steps outlined above.
Establishing the Children’s Best Interests
Once you’ve established standing, the next step is to prove to the court that a relationship with you is in the children’s best interests. Note that your ability to provide more in an economical way is not reason enough to request visitation or custody.
Rather, the court will consider the children’s current relationship with you and with their parent(s). They’ll also consider the added value and/or potential consequences for the child if the court sets up a visitation arrangement.
Again, keep in mind that laws vary by state. Grandparents rights in Colorado may be different than their rights in Florida, New York, or Hawaii. You’ll need to do research and speak with a grandparents rights attorney in your area to learn more.
FAQs About Grandparents Visitation Rights
Now that you have a general idea of what’s involved, let’s consider some specific questions you may have.
1. Are Parents Always Favored by the Court?
Almost always, the answer is yes. Family laws are designed to protect the parents’ rights to act in the best interests of the children. Except for extreme circumstances (which we’ll discuss next), the parents’ wishes will always trump the grandparents’ wishes.
2. What If One or Both Parents Are Unfit?
If your children make decisions about your grandchildren or live a lifestyle you disagree with, that won’t be enough to win visitation rights or custody. For a parent to be considered “unfit,” the circumstances must be extreme and present an immediate danger to their children.
This might include:
- Drug or alcohol addiction
- Physical or emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse or child exploitation
- Psychiatric disturbance
- Extreme neglect or abandonment
If you feel that one or both parents are unfit, you’ll need to present solid evidence to the court. To win custody of your grandkids, the court will consider many factors including your financial situation, physical and mental health, and existing relationships with your children and grandchildren.
3. What If Child Protective Services (CPS) Get Involved?
In some of the extreme circumstances mentioned above, child protective services may remove the children from the home.
A family law passed in 2008 states that the CPS must contact immediate family members (including grandparents) to alert them to the situation. It also grants them the right to file for custody or legal guardianship.
This is good news for grandparents seeking custody, but there’s a catch: It’s not awarded automatically. To become the foster parents or legal guardians of your grandkids, you’ll have to go through the same legal process as anyone else.
Looking for Lawyers for Grandparents Rights?
Unfortunately, there’s no federal law that guarantees grandparents visitation rights. However, this doesn’t mean the situation is doomed.
If your relationship with your child or their spouse is strained, you’ll need to follow the legal steps outlined by your state to establish standing. You’ll also need to show that visiting your grandchildren or petitioning for custody is in their best interests.
Your best chance at success is to work with a reputable family lawyer in your area. They’ll help you navigate the complex legal system and hopefully help to reunite you with your beloved grandchildren!
Grandparents rights aren’t the only subject we’re discussing today. Keep browsing our site for other articles on family, law, lifestyle, and much more.