If you ask to your friend or your colleagues, most of them will tell you that grandparents do not have no common law right to see their grandchildren if the parents object. And for the most part, all these people are right in some respects. Interestingly, there is no basis in constitutional law regarding grandparent visitation rights in the United States. However it is interesting to know that grandparents can be entitled to visitation rights with grandchildren in some cases.
In order for a grandparent to obtain such visitation rights, the grandparent may have to present evidence to the court that the absence of visitation rights would be harmful or detrimental to the child’s health and welfare. Considering that that parents have a fundamental right to the care, custody and management of their child, the grandparent generally has to show that there is a sufficient reason for the court to interfere with the parent’s right to for such external interference to be imposed. Therefore it is often difficult to prove such harm to the child. Some courts or judges may also fear that allowing grandparents an external visitation right could be harmful to the parental authority. It could also create intergenerational disputes which could be even more detrimental to the child and/or be contrary to the child’s best interest. Therefore, courts often recommend that parent and grandparents reach an agreement out of court.
Under specific circumstances grandparents can be granted custody rights of the child. When one parent is deceased the other surviving parent is typically preferred to obtain the custody of the child if deemed fit. But if both parents are deceased, the courts may decide to award the custody of the child to the grandparents since a blood relative is often preferred to obtain custody. Even in this situation, the grandparent has to present key evidence to the court that the child would be better off if he/she had custody of the child compared to other blood relatives or third parties. The courts can make their decision taking into account the age, health and financial ability of the grandparent to properly support and care for the child.
There are many restrictions and limitations in which the court can order or grant grandparent visitation rights. Additionally, the laws related to grandparent visitation rights are sometimes changing and developing. To learn the latest laws and developments in your area with respect to grandparent rights to child custody and visitation you may want to consult an attorney in your jurisdiction who can advise you legally.
© 2006 Child Custody Coach