As A Grandparent, Do You Know Your Visitation Rights?

Law Articles

Many times when a marriage ends up in divorce court and there is a custody battle, the court is only able to see the husband and wife.  They are not able to see the extended family members, especially the grandparents, who will also be directly impacted by any orders handed down by the court. In certain divorce cases, when it comes to visitation, the grandparents may have a right to be seen. They may also have a right to file their own request for visitation. 

What Are Grandparent Visitation Rights?

All fifty states have some type of statute in place that gives grandparents the right to ask the court to grant them visitation with their grandchildren. Many of these statutes were put into place due to the difficulty that the grandparents of the non-custodial parents have in maintaining contact following a divorce, incarceration, or even the death of the non-custodial parent. 

Although these laws vary greatly from state to state, and the granting of the requests vary from court to court, the opportunity to receive visitation through this route does exist. Most states have one of two types of statutes, although some states incorporate both into their laws. These are:

  • Restrictive visitation statutes are found in approximately 20 states. In these states, the only grandparents that are able to file for visitation are those who are directly affected by the couple divorcing, or in the case that one of the parents has died.
  • Permissive visitation statutes allows the court to consider the petitions of any grandparents, or even other third parties, even if there has been no death or divorce, as long as this visitation is in the best interest of the child.

Who May Seek Visitation Under Grandparent Visitation Statutes?

The legal definition of a grandparent is the father or mother of a person's own father or mother, although the definition is often broadened to include step-mothers and fathers. Fortunately for many children, there are others who have been willing to fill in the roles of grandparents without actually having legal standing. These are often:

  • Other relatives
  • Close friends
  • Foster parents, and others

Some permissive states will even allow these third parties to file a petition for visitation under the grandparents right laws. Unlike legal grandparents, the third parties will usually have to show that the child has lived with them, or they have had a close prior relationship with the child.

What Happens if the Parent Or Parents Object?

Unfortunately, some parents of the child or children, may not want the grandparents to have visitation or any type of contact with the child. In many states, the parents of the child have the right to object to the court granting this type of visitation. They often view this type of court order as an infringement on their rights to raise their children as they see fit. 

This challenge was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court In 2000 in the case of Troxel v. Granville. In this case the court struck down a Washington state visitation statute and ruled that a law that allows a petition to be granted over the parental objections infringes on that parents' right to rear their children. This requires the court to give more weight to the opinion of parents in these types of cases. It does not mean that the court cannot overrule a parent's objection, but that getting visitation may be more difficult if everyone is not in agreement.

What Can You Do?

If possible, the best thing that you can do is to work out a visitation arrangement or schedule with the custodial parent of the child. It is always in the child's best interest if the adults in their life are able to agree on such matter. If this is not possible, there are other avenues you may try, but you will need the services of an experienced child custody, family law, or a divorce attorney.

Ask your attorney if you are able to become a party to the already existing divorce or paternity case. This is a process called Joinder. It will allow the court to consider multiple issues at one time.

If this is not possible, ask your attorney about filing your own petition under your state's grandparent visitation statute. While you may hate to force the court to make such a decision, it may be the only way you are able to obtain and maintain visitation with your grandchildren. 

For more information, contact a practice like Hart Law Offices, PC


8 December 2015

Noni and the Accident

My name is Noni. When I was in college, I was hit by a car while crossing the street. My life was never in danger, but I did break a few bones and had a lot of huge medical bills. I was hoping I wouldn't have to get involved with an attorney, but unfortunately, it came down to that. I used a family friend who is an accident attorney to get some compensation. A few years later, I was hit while riding my bike and had to go through the same process. I suppose I'm lucky to be alive. And it's thanks to accident attorneys that I have been able to put my life back together. I started this blog as a way to let others know just how much lawyers can help you in certain situations.