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Grandparent rights facing hurdle in state's highest court

Pennsylvania grandparents who are seeking expanded custody rights for their grandchildren often face serious difficulty in court. In general, courts tend to prioritize the preferences and needs of the children's biological parents, assuming that abuse is not a factor. Now, though, the highest court in Michigan is hearing a grandparent rights case that could have a nationwide ripple effect in family courts. The decision rendered in this particular case could set an important precedent about the ability of grandparents to seek visitation rights with their grandchildren.

The case involves the parents of a man whose parental rights had been terminated. That man was accused of physically abusing his two children; consequently, he was prohibited from interacting with them. After the man died, his parents sought visitation rights with their grandchildren, arguing that they should not be punished for the sins of their son.

Lower courts, however, have agreed that grandparent visitation in this case is not legally appropriate. Those judicial bodies argue that the grandparents do not have the legal standing required to seek visitation rights for their grandchildren. Representatives for the grandparents say that they acknowledge the law and realize that visitation is not granted simply because a pair of grandparents happen to be well liked. Ultimately, the court must consider the best interests of the children when deciding the grandparent rights case.

Although grandparents may think they have the right to visit with their grandchildren, courts are not always eager to approve those visitation rights, especially in contentious situations. Those seeking grandparent visitation may want to seek the assistance of a qualified family attorney, who can help them learn more about their potential legal options, which may be able to supersede the preferences of the children's biological parents.

Source: Michigan Radio, "Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments in grandparents' visitation case" Steve Carmody, Jan. 14, 2014

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