Grandparents' Rights FAQ

Grandparents' rights expert Susan Hoffman answers your most frequently asked questions about visitation, maintaining relationships, and more.

By Susan Hoffman
Image of Susan Hoffman
Courtesy of Susan Hoffman
Susan Hoffman

Every day, Grandparents.com members from all over the country send letters to our grandparents' rights expert, Susan Hoffman, looking for advice. To provide our readers with a good starting point, we took the 11 most-asked questions and compiled this FAQ, with answers straight from Susan. We hope they'll help point you in the right direction, and encourage you to keep writing.

1. I don't like the way my SIL is raising my two grandchildren and my daughter just goes with the flow. Can I do something?

Yes, you can accept what is known as parental authority. It means parents have the right to raise children as they see fit, as long as they provide food, clothing and shelter. Your job is to offer love and support and to be there no matter what as "the net." Avoid interfering by questioning, criticizing, or offering unsolicited advice.

2. My 18-year-old son and his girlfriend have recently gone their separate ways, even though he is about to become a father. How can I guarantee involvement in my new grandbaby's life?

Remain neutral toward the parents, yet lend support to both. Since your son is not yet independent, the responsibility falls on you to ensure that a support and visitation order is in place, this way you will be able to see the child during his visits and hopefully avoid filing a separate petition.

3. My DIL said mean things about me on Facebook. What can I do?

You can repeat to yourself, "What others say about me is none of my business." Confronting the issue only gives power to her words. Instead rise above it and model the behavior that you desire be directed toward you.

4. I am a recently divorced step-grandparent. Can I still see my step-grandchildren?

That's a decision for the parents as long as they consider it to be in the best interest of their children. Grandparent rights statutes provide standing on behalf of biological grandparents. Let the parents know that you didn't divorce them, nor the kids.

5. Where can I find grandparent rights laws for my state? 

Besides Grandparents.com, plenty of sites pop up during an Internet search, however the most accurate and current information can only be found by visiting each state's official government website, where the actual statute language is published.

6. I have enjoyed easy access to my grandkids following their parents' divorce, but will all that change now that my ex-DIL is getting re-married?

If it becomes an awkward situation to visit the children when they are with their mother and new husband, then your time may be reduced to sharing visits with your  son. If his time is significantly less than mom's, then filing a petition for visitation may be in order to sustain stability.

7. How do I initiate legal action to get visitation rights for my grandchild?

First and foremost retain a qualified attorney who specializes in grandparent visitation cases. The best way to find an attorney is to obtain personal references if possible and do your shopping in the courthouse. This will help you observe attorneys in action and diffuse your own anxiety simultaneously. If the case is not complex and the respondent does not have an attorney, then self-representation is an option with the assistance of the self-help center of the court.

8. My grandchild's parents are abusive. What is my recourse?

If there are signs of physical abuse, then it's your responsibility to report it to authorities in order to protect the child's safety. This is a risk most grandparents are willing to take.

Emotional abuse is another story. Stay close by and portray yourself as an ally rather than a threat. Speaking up is not the answer, as it could make the problem worse and limit your access. The more time that you spend with the grandchildren, the more you can offset the damage the parents have inflicted and hopefully achieve a semblance of balance.

9. My daughter died last year and then my SIL cut me off from my grandchildren. What can I do to re-connect?

Surviving spouses have been known to move on. Whatever the reason (alleviating grief, anger, dislike for in-laws), they want to remove reminders of the past. Re-connection requires a multi level campaign, starting with open communication. For example, sending a 'thinking of you' card can be helpful. Ultimately, your goal is to demonstrate that you are asset rather than a liability.

10. I've been raising my four-year old granddaughter for the last two years because the parents took off. Now they want her back. What is my legal recourse?

A custody order filed with the court is the only way to prevent the child from being removed from your care. Without one, parents can pretty much call the shots. If an arrangement can't be worked out with the parents, then filing for custody in dependency court is your next step; keep in mind the guideline is the best interest of the child. Removing a child from a parent, no matter how unfit, is not an easy achievement.

11. My grandchild was given up for adoption. Do I have rights to see her?

Unfortunately outside adoption, unlike stepparent adoption, cuts off grandparent visitation rights. However, a post-adoption contact agreement may be executed. In accordance with the terms of the adoption order, the adoptive parents and biological family member (such as a grandparent) may voluntarily enter into a continued contact agreement. It has been the finding of certain legislatures that some adoptive children benefit from contact with birth relatives.

Susan Hoffman is the creator and director of Advocates for Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, a charitable non-profit  501©(3) organization, the purpose of which is to provide resources to families, specifically grandparents, experiencing visitation issues with grandchildren. She is also the author of Grand Wishes: Advocating To Preserve The Grandparent-Grandchild Bond and A Precious Bond: How To Preserve The Grandparent-Grandchild Relationship, as well as the documentary filmmaker behind A Precious Bond. She sponsored a bill in California on behalf of grandparent rights that became law in 2007, and currently lives in Newport Beach, California. Susan is not a lawyer. Her advice is for informational purposes only.

As a service to our readers, Grandparents.com has established the American Grandparents AssociationTM , dedicated to ensuring the best for grandparents and their families. One goal of Association is to become a key resource for grandparents who are physically removed from their grandchildren and would like to find a way to visit them. We are providing this guide to grandparent rights in all 50 states. Should you need specific legal advice on your own grandparent rights, consult a lawyer in your home state who specializes in family law and who may know of any recent changes in your state's laws.

Comments

I an new to this site and testing the comment page

Mema54 on 2015-06-30 12:09:09

Please help me...My daughter was pregnant at 18 yrs of age.I was supportive and helped her by going to all doctor appointments, still raising her,as she never worked and taking care of her after the birth of the baby. She had to have 2 wisdom teeth pulled right after the childs birth so i cared for the baby boy took him under my wing. She never did say mom ok im ok i will let tyler sleep in my room or anything.. She began running around from one immigrant house to another with the baby...I found out and took the baby and said to her this is not happening to my grandson...I have raised him since he was born and he is 9 yrs old now.My daughter is slowly trying to get to me by taking my grandson to my sisters who is very mentally ill and whom has fought with me for mny entire life over jealousy. My daughter met a man a couple yrs ago and they are living in a 2 bedroom house (rental) with his mother who smokes in the home cusses like sailor and is on oxygen..The boyfriend does work faithfully my daughter is pregnant again!! She says she hates me and that we will never have a relationship..why? i dont know...She is so angry because me correcting her when she turned 14 . She was running with boys and skipping school and i had to take her befiore a judge to have him get on to her ..I was working 12 hours a day 5 days a week but worked nights. My teenage son was living with me and he made sure she was cared for etc...I think he may have been like 17 or 18. He was the best child a woman could ask for and still is. She is coming up with made up stories of me being simply to put it whorish etc..This breaks my heart..None of it is true...She never liked me to date or anything..Please help me ...I have not saw my grandson for 8 days and she is letting my sister have him...what can i do...I have raised her untill she was in her 20s and him since the age of nine..Im so sad

parishcindy50@yahoo.com on 2015-01-01 12:58:54

I have a 16 yr. old Grandson who lives in Va. I live in CO. His Mother & Father have been divorced for just about ten years. Father lives in CO. and has remarried. Mother is of Phillipino decent but has become a US citizen. other has custody and allows the son to come to CO. for summer . My Grandson is very lonely, Is withdrawn and feels very much alone. He has gone from a straight A student all through grammar school. Is now beginning his Jr. yr. in High School. Has failing grades since starting H.S. had to go to summer school last summer so could not see father or myself for two years. He has asked me to help and would like to finish his H.S. yrs. here with my Husband and I. Then just visit his Dad who lives about two hrs. from myself. I would have him in a heartbeat. I love him and worry that he is so withdrawn. Pretty much a loner. Mother does not allow him after school activities and spends most time in the house. Please offer some suggestions I need help for this child. Such a waste of a life. No one is abusive here and he is in good health. Just very very lonely. Help me please so I can help this young, wonderful boy. I am retired after many years of working in Washington, D.C. Can afford to keep him and encourage him to fulfill any dreams he may have. Thanking you in advance if you could guide me in a direction for my Grandson to be the best he can.

Glorybee38 on 2014-07-25 09:54:04

Dear Ms Hoffman ;

I am a grandmother and my daughter moved away and we had a bad arguement and now I can't even send letters to my grand kids they keep getting return I've been looking for a lawyer but it seems no one wants to help me what can I do

florencehollingsworth@yahoo.com on 2014-07-17 15:40:21

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