A Grandparent's Guide To Visitation And Custody Rights

Events including but not limited to divorce, death, and estrangement can make maintaining the relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild difficult. After these events, a parent (or other family member) may try to prevent a grandparent from any contact with the grandchild. Depending on exactly what the event was, the grandparent may also try to pursue custody of his or her grandchild. Learning more about laws and legal issues involving grandparent's rights can put the mind of any loving grandparent at ease.

Understanding Child Visitation Laws

Every state in the United States has some form of grandparent visitation statute. This statute exists so the grandparent has the right to ask a court to give them some form of legal right to visitations in order to maintain a relationship with his or her grandchildren. Roughly 20 states have restrictive statutes. This means grandparents can only ask for a court order for visitation if one or both of the parents have passed away or they have gotten a divorce. Fortunately, the rest of the states have more relaxed statutes that allow grandparents to pursue visitation rights without there having to have been a divorce or death.

What is the Best Interest of the Child?

When a court determines whether or not a grandparent should be given custody or visitation rights the factors used to make this determination vary from one state to the next. However, the best interest of the child or children is considered regardless of where you live. In fact, the following factors are considered when determining whether or not the grandparents receiving visitations rights or custody is in the best interest of the child:

  • The wishes of the parents and grandparents
  • If the child is capable, the wishes of the child
  • The strength and length of the relationship between the child and the grandparent
  • Evidence of abuse or neglect
  • The child's medical and physical needs
  • How much adjusting the child would have to do such as whether or not the child would have to go to a new school
  • The grandparent's physical, emotional, and financial ability to care for the child

If one (or both) parents are alive, most states will consider giving the parent(s) custody before ever considering the grandparent. Grandparents, in almost all states, are required to provide evidence the parent (or parents) are unfit to care for the child in order to receive custody. Ultimately, the final decision regarding whether a grandparent has a right to custody or visitations is made by the court.

For more information, contact Edward G. Foster or a similar legal professional.