Grandparents As Parents? Know Your Grandparenting Legal Rights

April 7th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

Unfortunately, there are many reasons and circumstances that may prompt a grandparent to want to know what rights they have with their grandchildren. Grandparent’s legal rights may be harder to establish than you think.

There was a case in 2000, Troxel vs. Granville, where the United States Supreme Court ruled that fit parents should be given more deference about whom their children see on a regular basis, including relatives like grandparents. This ruling has made it more difficult, but not impossible, for grandparents to get court-ordered visitation with grandchildren. As put by Justice Sandra Day O’Conner in regard to the ruling,”[S]o long as a parent adequately cares for his or her child (i.e., is fit), there will normally be no reason for the State to inject itself into the private realm of the family to further question the ability of that parent to make the best decisions concerning the rearing of that parent’s children.”

While grandparent’s rights took a bit of a hit with this ruling, it did provide for cases where the grandparents can prove that they have a really strong relationship with the grandchildren and/or had the children living with them and raised them for a few years before custody was returned to the parents. Grandparents as parents are becoming more common.Of course, trying to prove the strong relationship and show that it would be detrimental to the child to not see the grandparents can be tricky. Simply missing the grandparents on the part of the children is not enough. There needs to be evidence that it would be harmful for the children to be denied visitation with their grandparents.This burden of proof that is on grandparents varies from state to state, and while most still give grandparents rights consideration, there can be many hoops to jump through.

After the Troxel ruling, the burden of proof on grandparents became even heavier. Keep in mind though, that if the parent allows the grandparents to see the grandchildren on a regular basis, even if infrequently, then the courts will not often interfere. If the parent does not allow or regularly exercise visitation, that is when the court may step in and grant visitation for the grandparents. Of course, in instances where the parents agree to custody of the children by the grandparents, then the grandparent’s rights are on much steadier ground. However, while it may be tempting to let the situation be an informal matter without legal recourse, grandparents may find that if the situation ever changes then they may end up in court anyway. If grandparent’s legal rights are not supported with legal documentation, then the parents could possible come back at a later date to claim the children, which could be distressing for everyone. Grandparents may want to seek custody or guardianship of the grandchildren. This will help in many situations. For instance, enrolling the child in school, making medical decisions and for insurance coverage, guardianship or custody may be necessary. In many instances, it’s best to protect grandparent’s rights by seeking some kind of documentation that establishes the legal boundaries of the grandparent/grandchild.

Grandparent Rights – A Precious Bond Should Not Be Broken

February 7th, 2021 by dayat No comments »

A PRECIOUS BOND: Should Not Be Broken
The bond between grandparent and child is precious and should not be unnecessarily broken.

While there is no doubt grandparents suffer greatly from broken hearts when separated from grandchildren, the kids also feel frustration, helplessness, and bereft of an important part of their future. Often the greatest source of grief for grandparents arises from concern for the child: the impact on that child when a beloved grandparent is abruptly removed from their life. Grandparents wonder: “Do they feel abandoned?” “Unloved?” “Will they think that it is somehow their fault?”

The grandparent-grandchild relationship is its own entity, built on a foundation of unconditional love and mutual affection. It is no secret that grandparents are of vital importance to a child’s life. Think of your own bond with your grandparents.

The enactment of grandparent visitation laws, which provide a way to actively advocate on behalf of a child supports that notion. Grandparent laws are meant to preserve and protect the grandparent-grandchild relationship, bestowing upon the grandparents a position in a court of law to stand up for a child and lend them a voice. Children deserve to have all of the love they can get, and keep it. When a child is unreasonably denied that love, there is bound to be negative consequences.

There is a body of research indicating that when children lose access to a loving adult (such as a grandparent) with whom they have had an established relationship, they suffer abandonment issues, lower self-esteem, emotional disorders, acting out behavior or withdrawal. Dr. Glenn Cartwright of McGill University is a foremost authority in PAS, (Parental Alienation Syndrome) which also effects grandparents through association. I refer to it as GAS (Grandparent Alienation Syndrome). In his article, “Expanding the Parameters of Parental Alienation Syndrome”, Dr. Cartwright discusses the short, medium and long-term effects of PAS. Besides the non-custodial parent, the grandparents also experience anguish over the loss of the child through sudden dismissal. He explains that during the first stage when the child experiences the loss of a grandparent and or parent it is similar to a death, only worse than an actual death because the child is unable to acknowledge or mourn the loss, and it becomes a major tragedy. When the child is subjected to continual denigration of grandparents by the alienating parent(s), all of the fond memories of them are “deliberately and systematically destroyed.”

The medium term effects concern the continued absence [as opposed to initial loss] of the lost grandparent [and parent] and the effects it has on the child’s development. What is lost is the consistency, the day-to-day interaction, love and support that normally flows from grandparents and parents. Dr. Cartwright states, “While in the case of death such a loss is un-avoidable, in the case of PAS such a loss is entirely avoidable and therefore in-excusable.”

For the long-term effects, Professor Cartwright suggests “that everyone involved in PAS suffers some degree of distress over the long term.” He compares the feelings parents and grandparents experience as being similar to what is experienced when a child goes missing. Professor Cartwright emphasizes that it is the child who suffers most.
Dr. Eleanor Willemsen, professor of developmental psychology at Santa Clara University, in her article “Best Interests Of a Child”, describes the effects on a child when attachments are broken, among them loss of security and abandonment issues. She emphasizes the harm that happens “when a child loses ongoing intimate relationships,” and there is evidence that over time a child’s social skills diminish, they become insecure and there are cognitive effects. Perhaps Dr. Willemsen said it best in the following sentence: “[T]he most important aspect of being a whole person when you are a small child is your opportunity to develop well.”

GRANDPARENT VISITATION RIGHTS are equally CHILDREN’S RIGHTS: a child should also have the right to remain connected to grandparents. It is an ongoing struggle of many individuals who work to promote the preservation of the family unit by influencing legislation and the public. These GRANDPARENT RIGHTS STATUTES will bring to the forefront the fact that children are often treated as “property,” with little concern for their wants and needs. There is a need for child substantive issues; a child’s LIBERTY INTERESTS must be represented and no longer ignored. Children are people, not possessions.