The breakdown in family relations subsequent to divorce goes beyond the relationship of the two direct parties to the divorce. Grandparents are often caught in the crossfire between the spouses. Loving relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren sometimes take the brunt of the collateral damage. What rights do grandparents have when parents refuse access to their grandchildren?
The area of grandparent rights is a relatively new and developing area of the law. While the laws in this area vary greatly from state to state, grandparents, in general, are rarely recognized to have any rights regarding visitation with their grandchildren. In most cases, the parents of the children have the right to control the amount of time grandparents can spend with their grandchildren. This area of the law is beginning to change, however. In recent years, some states have started to grant grandparents limited visitation rights when the parents of the children get divorced.
Right of Grandparent to Visit Grandchildren
As noted above, the right of grandparents to visit grandchildren varies from state to state. For example, those in Massachusetts cannot legally get visitation rights with grandchildren if the parents are married. However, if the parents are divorced, separated, or one of the parents is deceased, the law does permit grandparents to petition for limited visitation rights with their grandchildren. The court is directed to consider the best interests of the children, but the burden of proof seems to be on the grandparents to show that the child would suffer harm if contact with the grandparent were terminated.
Do Grandparents Have Rights?
While it seems like an uphill battle if you are a grandparent, the area of grandparents’ rights is still evolving. While some states reference a parent who is absent due to imprisonment, addicted to drugs, or a legally declared unfit, the current state of grandparent rights is far from uniform. As noted in the Massachusetts grandparents rights example above, there are many factors that can, and do, come into play. In states that provide grandparent visitation exceptions, the grandparent must file a petition with the appropriate court to request them. Regardless of the state, the grandparent who is petitioning for visitation or custodial rights has the burden of proof to support the granting of visitation. Depending upon the jurisdiction, the burden varies from being “in the child’s best interest” to showing that denial of visitation rights will cause “significant harm” to the child.
Hiring a Family Law Attorney
If you are involved in a legal dispute about grandparent rights, the Shapiro Law Group can help. Let one of our family law attorney experts assist you. Our lawyers take you through the entire process, from start to finish. We work diligently with you every step of the way to help secure the visitation rights you deserve and are entitled to under the law. Contact the Shapiro Law Group today for a free consultation at 339-200-9933.