Posts Tagged ‘Legal’

Grandparents As Parents? Know Your Grandparenting Legal Rights

April 7th, 2021

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.