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Grandparent rights up for debate in many jurisdictions

Do you know your rights as a grandparent after your child divorces? Grandparent rights are a hot topic in the courts these days, with some states granting visitation and others resolutely refusing to involve grandparents in child custody agreements. Pennsylvania experts say that the actual recognition of grandparents' rights is a relatively new legal trend, with most laws dating back less than 35 years.

One of the most important federal decisions relating to grandparents' rights is that of Trovel v. Granville, in which a Washington state visitation statute was struck down. Judges at the United States Supreme Court decided in 2000 that the Washington law overstepped onto parents' rights to make decisions related to child-rearing. As a consequence, many states have begun revising their visitation rights in order to comply with the overarching mandate.

Grandparents are still able to receive visitation in certain circumstances, though visitation is far less likely to occur if grandparents and parents have a contentious relationship. Some determining factors for visitation include the wishes of both the grandparents and the parents, along with the length and quality of the relationship between grandparents and their grandchild. Grandparents are often evaluated for their ability to provide love and affection to the child, and the wishes of the child are even considered in many situations.

It is important to remember that it is extraordinarily difficult for grandparents to receive custody of their grandchildren unless the parents are considered patently unfit to care for the youngsters. Even in those cases, grandparents may not be the first choice for child custody. Grandparent rights are indeed a complicated issue that require a significant amount of attention and consideration before any legal moves are made.

Source: Grandparents.com, "Your Guide to Grandparent Rights" Jul. 29, 2014

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