Reader Question: I was reading about legal rights for grandparents to have more access to their grandchildren. What happens if that grandparent is not stable and isn't fit to look after the child?
Grandparent legal access is never a slam dunk. The petition filing process can be long and complicated with the burden of proof, pertaining to the best interest of the child, resting on the grandparent's shoulders. Should issues about grandparent fitness and stability be raised, it's not uncommon for a judge to order psychological evaluations for individuals involved in case. Judges also often appoint minor's counsel, which is an attorney assigned to represent the child.
On the other hand, whether or not legal action is on the horizon, parents should adopt a plan to ensure child safety, and try to diffuse any situation before it escalates. Parental authority is the guiding factor when it comes to acting on behalf of the child's best interest, and they are not obligated to leave their children in the care of grandparents.
There are other ways to maintain the relationship, however. Parents who understand the benefits that children receive from the love and affection that the grandparent-grandchild relationship provides may want to try monitored visitation. Even though this may not fulfill the grandparent's expectations of having the child all to themselves, they continue to have access. Open communication is always the best policy and can be achieved without shaming and blaming.
The focus, once again, should be on the child.
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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.
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