Search Grandparent's Visitation & Child Custody Laws in all 50 States
Child custody disputes aren't limited to parents' rights. In many cases, grandparents also want to make sure that their rights to visitation with (and sometimes custody of) grandchildren are protected. This article contains information and tips on grandparents' rights in child custody and visitation cases.
Know your Grandparents Visitation and Child Custody Rights
Divorcing parents can prevent later intergenerational conflict by including in their separation agreement a provision stating specifically that both sets of grandparents will have visitation rights. But for grandparents who have no such provision in their favor, here are some general guidelines:
- Don't be too aggressive. If the custodial parent remarries, give him or her plenty of time to make the new marriage work. Such family transitions are usually difficult for young children, who may be torn by loyalty to the divorced or deceased parent.
- Don't run out and start a lawsuit. First, open a line of communication with the parent or parents. You might even use a neutral third-party mediator. Try to ascertain what the difficulty is. "More often than not, visitation is not being denied because the parent thinks contact with the grandparents will be harmful for the children," says Richard Victor. "Instead, the parent fears that the grandparent will talk to the children about him or her in an adverse way." He suggests discussing with the parent some ground rules for visitation. Then, whatever rules are agreed upon, follow them.
- When there is no other recourse, call your local bar association for referral to a family-law attorney, preferably one with experience in third-party (other than parental) visitation rights. When you meet with the attorney, be prepared with documentary evidence and lists of witnesses to support your contention that it is in the "best interests of the children"-the legal standard in most states-for them to see you. Evidence that a consistent, caring relationship existed between you in the past is important.
- If there is animosity between you and the children's parents, do everything you can to keep the youngsters from getting involved in it.
- Remember that grandparent visitation rights are not intended or designed to supersede parental authority. Grandparents should step in only when there is a threat to the children's safety. If there is evidence that the children are being physically or emotionally abused, contact the department of social services for the protection of minor children in the state where your children live.
- Be aware, too, that the law applying to your visitation rights is the law in the state where the grandchildren live
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