While parents still have the primary right to determine how their children will be raised, grandparents also play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. A frequent issue for family courts is whether grandparents should have visitation rights with their grandchildren.
Unfortunately, family relationships often sour, leaving the grandparents at the will of the parents when it comes to whether or not they are able to see their grandchildren. As a result, grandparents have increasingly taken their cases to court and have been granted legal visitation rights in some cases.
How states handle grandparents visitation cases
The rights of grandparents to have visitation with their grandchildren differ widely according to state laws. In some states, grandparents can only petition for visitation if the children’s parents are divorced or separated, or if one or both of the parents have died.
In more liberal states, grandparents can petition for visitation under any circumstances, as long as it will serve the best interest of the children.
Parents may agree to allow a grandparent to have visitation with their children. On the other hand, if they agree not to grant visitation to a grandparent, that is usually the end of the story, as far as the courts are concerned.
How the courts decide upon visitation for grandparents
In general, state laws respects the will of the parents when they agree to grant or deny visitation to a grandparent. However, when the parents are in dispute over whether a grandparent should have visitation, a court hearing may be required to resolve the matter.
As with any matter related to children, their well-being is of the utmost importance. Hence, a family court will evaluate a grandparents visitation case in light of what’s in the best interest of the children.
Other factors that the courts may take into consideration when evaluating a grandparents visitation case may include:
- The relationship between the children and the grandparent;
- The relationship between the children’s parent and the grandparent;
- The time elapsed since the children’s last contact with the grandparent;
- The effect the grandparents visitation will have on the relationship between the children and the parent;
- The time-sharing arrangement between the divorced or separated parents;
- Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the grandparent;
- The benefits of preserving the relationship between the children and the grandparent;
- The reason for the parent’s denial of the grandparents visitation
- The good faith of the grandparent in petitioning for visitation; and
- The children’s ages and preference.
Summary of grandparents visitation rights
While grandparents visitation rights are not automatic, there are situations where a court will grant a grandparent visitation.
However, the legal right of any grandparent to seek a court order to be granted visitation with their grandchildren is complicated, varies from state to state, and may hinge on the specific facts of a given case.
For more information on grandparents visitation rights or for assistance in obtaining visitation rights with your grandchildren, contact an experienced family law attorney for advice.