Family Law

What Are the Legal Rights of a Grandparent?

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When it comes to making decisions for their children, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that parents have the final word. But what happens when parents decide that their children should not see or spend time with their grandparents? Although grandparents have rights, they are not automatic. Grandparents must ask the court to enforce them.

Your Rights Might Depend on the Parents' Marital Status

If your grandchildren's parents are married, they can usually deny you time with your grandchildren, and the court will not interfere. Legally, as long as the parents of your grandchildren are not unfit, they can raise their children any way they like. The government cannot overrule their decision.

Parents' Wishes Carry a Lot of Weight

Even if your child is divorced, deceased or was never married to the parent of your grandchild, a parent's wishes still carry a lot of weight with the court. In these situations, however, a court can - and sometimes will - override a parent's wishes regarding access to a grandchild. The law puts a parent's wishes first but, if you can prove that your grandchild's parent is wrong, the court can rule in your favor and give you the right to see your grandchild.

Grandparents Have a Right to a Court Hearing

If you file a lawsuit against your grandchild's parent, asking for visitation with your grandchild, your success in court usually depends on proving that cutting off your relationship with your grandchild would be harmful to the child. If your grandchild recently dealt with the trauma of the family's divorce, for example, you could try to prove that losing contact with you as well might not be psychologically healthy.

Grandparents Can Ask For Guardianship

When parents are divorced, and the parent with custody dies, the law automatically transfers custody to the other parent. If you believe your grandchild's other parent is unfit, you can file a lawsuit with the court, asking the judge to appoint you as your grandchild's guardian instead. Even if both of your grandchildren's parents are living, you can ask for guardianship.

The courts must always put the best interests of the child first. If you can prove that the parents are abusive or unfit, the court will put the interests of the child or children ahead of the parents' rights.

A Family Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding grandparents’ rights is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a family law lawyer.

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