Grandparents Have Rights, Too

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Grandparent Rights
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By WILLIAM REDIG

Child custody and visitation disputes typically only involve a child’s parents, but not always. Grandparents are a valued addition to the family dynamic and can very often be a great help with child rearing. Grandparents should be given the opportunity to visit and create meaningful relationships with a grandchild if, in doing so, the child benefits from the relationship.

Parents are normally the ones to dispute custody of the child, but it is not uncommon for grandparents to also petition for visitation rights. Grandparents can petition for visitation rights regardless of the status of the child’s parents. The courts give substantial deference to a fit parent’s decision of what is best for their child when weighing whether to grant grandparent’s visitation rights.

To be awarded visitation rights, a grandparent must present “clear and convincing evidence” to the court of an unfit parent. Grandparents may likewise win visitation rights if they are able to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that contact with the grandparents is in the best interest of the child.

The Problem

When addressing the issue of grandparent rights, there is an immediate question of whether or not grandparents have rights to see their grandchildren. The simplest answer is no, grandparents do not have automatic legal rights to see the child, but a grandparent has the right to petition the courts when a grandchild is being kept from them.  

In many cases, grandparents are simply denied access or may be allowed very limited contact with their grandchildren. The courts have the right to decide whether grandparents should be allowed contact with their grandchildren based on blood relations and how close the relationship was prior to the discontinuation of visitations.

Both Montana and Idaho have put laws into place that grant grandparents the right to request reasonable legal visitation with their grandchildren, as long as the relationship is beneficial to the children.

The Benefit

Close grandparent/grandchild relationships have significantly positive effects for both parties involved when developed in the proper way. For example, a decrease in depression for both grandparents and grandchildren are one positive aspect, as is the feeling of togetherness that occurs when grandchildren have close, positive relationships with their grandparents.

When a child is exposed to spending time with their grandparents, the child has the opportunity to learn family history and traditions, as well as open themselves to greater wisdom. They may become more open minded towards other’s ideas and traditions.

When grandparents are allowed to spend quality time with their grandchildren, the entire family tends to be more connected and involved in each other’s lives.







Solving the Problem

What happens if the family dynamic, particularly as relating to visitation with the grandparents, is not supportive? Grandparents sometimes lose their ability to visit or interact with their grandchild following a divorce or other similar matter, which can be emotionally straining for everyone involved.

This is a situation wherein a grandparent may investigate the opportunities available to remedy their inability to see their grandchildren. Grandparents in this situation should know there are several ways to work toward solving the issue.

First, trying to compromise or effectuate an agreement with the parents is often the simplest and most effective route. While this might seem obvious, many find themselves in these challenging situations and become upset on the immediacy of the issues of altered parenting and major adjustments to family dynamics that they fail to focus on simple communication.

Second, mediation between the parties with a neutral third-party professional, such as a therapist or family counselor, can be highly effective if the mediator is able to facilitate discussion between the grandparents and parents of the children in a direction that will prove beneficial for all involved.

If the grandparents are unable to have visitation with their grandchildren, they are able to file a petition with a court to present themselves and their evidence as to why they should be permitted visitation rights.

Here, the burden rests with the grandparents to detail to the court that a positive relationship exists between grandparents and grandchildren, and their relationship as grandparents can benefit the children.

Grandparents should also show how their time with their grandchildren is bettering the children’s sense of self and personal identity.

Being granted rights in a legal capacity can be mutually straining for the parent/grandparent relationship, but is binding and allows for the grandparents to follow court-set standards for the visitations. MSN