It's a well-known fact that kids love their Grandpa or Grandma and love spending time with them. Unfortunately, if there is a divorce, separation or death in the family, this causes some very real problems for the grandparents. They often find themselves without a legal leg to stand on when it comes to seeing and caring for their grandkids. Thankfully, all 50 states have laws and statutes that allow grandparents to visit.
In part, the reason legislators got behind this issue is that grandparents are also the last resort for children in need of protection and a place to call home. It is not unusual to see grandparents taking on the repatriation role of "parent" in the absence of the legal parents, either due to death, divorce, drug or alcohol issues, or absenteeism due to work.
In fact, the US Supreme Court handed down a decision in 2000 that reflected, in brief, that parents can not limit the visits of grandparents. Grandparents also have the enthrined right to visit the kids no matter where they live, thanks to the Visitation Rights Enforcement Act of 1998.
There is a bit of a process to go through to get these visitation rights. If grandparents want legal permission, they need to petition the Superior Court of their state. Factors looked at prior to granting permission for visitation include: the nature of the relationship between the child and grandparent, the applicant's mental and physical records, and the preference of the child. The overriding consideration is if the grandparent's visit would be a benefit to the child or not.
The days when grandparents had no idea whether or not they could see their grandkids anyway are at an end. The courts these days have a major focus on doing what is best for the children and that includes considering the grandparents in the equation. This is even more crucial as the divorce rate keeps soaring.
Knowing your legal rights as a grandparent is important if you find yourself in the middle of a custody battle and you need to take over to ensure the child (ren) have a caring, nurturing place to stay. To find out what your legal rights as a grandparent are, talk to a competent family law attorney. It never hurts to be prepared for the future.
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Bradley J. Hofland