Your Guide to Grandparent Rights

Do you know your legal rights?

By The Editors

As a service to our readers, Grandparents.com has established the American Grandparents Association,TM 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 a 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.

Families can splinter for a number of reasons: divorce, the death of a parent, drug or alcohol abuse, incarceration. When those situations occur, grandparents do have certain legal rights, and can seek visitation with grandchildren or even custody, but the relevant laws vary from state to state. Understanding your own basic rights can help ensure that your relationship with your grandchildren doesn't end even if the children's relationship with your adult child does.

The State of Grandparent Rights

Grandparents in every state in the United States have rights, in some circumstances, to be awarded custody of their grandchildren or to be awarded court-mandated visitation with their grandchildren. Grandparents' rights are not constitutional in nature....Recognition of grandparents' rights by state legislatures is a fairly recent trend, and most of the statutes have been in effect for less than 35 years.

Federal legislation may affect grandparents' rights, though these rights are based primarily on state law. Congress passed the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act in 1980, which requires that each state give full faith and credit to child custody decrees from other states. Federal legislation passed in 1998 also requires that courts in each state recognize and enforce grandparental visitation orders from courts in other states. All states have adopted a version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (previously the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act), which requires courts in the state where a child resides to recognize and enforce valid child custody orders from another state. Though the UCCJEA is not a federal statute, the provisions of this uniform law as adopted in each state are similar.

A number of courts have recently determined that state statutes providing visitation to grandparents are unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court in the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granville determined that the Washington visitation statute violated the due process rights of parents to raise their children. This case and similar decisions by state courts have caused several state legislatures to consider bills that would modify or completely revise the visitation rights in those states. Grandparents who seek to attain visitation rights should check the current status of state legislation in their respective states.

Factors Considered for Custody or Visitation

Courts grant visitation or custody to grandparents only when certain conditions provided in the state statutes are met. Conditions for a grandparent to attain custody differ from those conditions required for visitation rights. A grandparent should be familiar with the conditions for either custody or visitation before determining whether to file a petition to request either from a court of law.

Best Interests of the Child

Courts in every jurisdiction must consider the "best interests of the child" when granting custody or visitation rights to a grandparent. In some states, the relevant statute provides a list of factors the court should considered when determining a child's best interests. Other states do not provide factors in the statute, but courts in those states have likely identified factors in custody and visitation cases interpreting the state statutes.

The following factors in determining the best interests of the child are among those included in state statutes and case law:

  • The needs of the child, including considerations of physical and emotional health of the child, the safety of the child, and the welfare of the child
  • The capability of the parents and/or grandparents to meet the needs of the child
  • The wishes of the parent(s) and the grandparent(s)
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is capable of making decisions for himself or herself
  • The strength of the relationship between the grandparent(s) and grandchild
  • The length of the relationship between the grandparent(s) and grandchild
  • Evidence of abuse or neglect by the parent(s) or grandparent(s)
  • Evidence of substance abuse by the parent(s) or grandparent(s)
  • The child's adjustment to the home, school, or community
  • The ability of the parent(s) or grandparent(s) to provide love, affection, and contact with the child
  • The distance between the child and the parent(s) or grandparent(s)

Requirements for Awarding Custody to Grandparents

Statutory provisions for child custody (termed "conservatorship" in a few states) are usually less specific than the statutes regarding grandparent visitation. Courts must first consider the relationship of the parent or parents with the child before considering whether granting custody to grandparent(s) is appropriate. Several states specifically include consideration of grandparents as custodians if both parents are deceased. If either or both parents are alive, courts in most states will presume that the parent of the child should retain custody. Grandparents must generally prove the parent(s) unfit in order to overcome the judicial presumption in favor of the parent. Even if the relationship between the grandparent and grandchild is strong, it is very difficult for a grandparent to attain custody of a grandchild against the wishes of the parent or parents.

Requirements for Awarding Visitation to Grandparents

State statutes providing visitation to grandparents generally require that a number of conditions occur before visitation rights can be granted. The marital status of the parents must be considered in a majority of states before a court will evaluate the relevant factors to determine if visitation is appropriate. In some of these states, the parents' marital status is considered only if the grandparent or grandparents have been denied visitation by the parents. In other states, marital status is considered only if the grandchild resided with the grandparents for a certain length of time.

A minority of states require that at least one parent is deceased before a court can award visitation to the parent of the deceased parent of the child. For example, a maternal grandparent in one of these states may be awarded visitation only if the mother of the child is deceased.

State statutes vary in their treatment of cases in which a grandchild has been adopted. In several states, adoption by anyone, including a stepparent or another grandparent, terminates the visitation rights of the grandparent. In some states, adoption by a stepparent or another grandparent does not terminate visitation rights, but adoption by anyone else does terminate these rights. In other states, adoption has no effect on the visitation rights of grandparents, so long as other statutory requirements are met.

Once the statutory conditions for visitation are met, grandparents must establish the factors that courts may or must consider to grant visitation rights. In every state, grandparents must prove that granting visitation to the grandchild is in the best interest of the child. Several states also require that the court consider the prior relationship between the grandparent and the grandchild, the effect grandparental visitation will have on the relationship between the parent and child, and/or a showing of harm to the grandchild if visitation is not allowed.

Courts' Jurisdiction over Custody and Visitation Cases

Parties Residing in the Same State

Each state provides the appropriate venue which can make custody and visitation determinations in a case where all of the parties reside in the same state. Where a divorce is pending, the appropriate venue for making a custody or visitation decision involving the grandparents and grandchildren is almost always the court hearing the divorce proceedings. Some states require visitation petitions to be filed with another domestic relations suit. Some states also permit visitation requests after a domestic relations order has been rendered or as an original proceeding.

Parties Residing in Different States

If a child's parents and/or grandparents live in different states, one of several laws will determine the appropriate court to hear a custody or visitation case. If a valid custody or visitation decree has been entered in one state, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act requires that another state must enforce and must not modify the decree. Another state may modify the decree only if the original state no longer has jurisdiction over the case or has declined jurisdiction to modify the custody or visitation decree. Congress amended this statute in 1998 to include a grandparent in the definition of "contestant."

If no state has made a valid custody determination, the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, as adopted by each state, will apply. A court in a particular state has power to hear a custody case if that state is the child's "home state" or has been the home state of the child within six months of the date the legal action was brought and at least one parent continues to reside in the state. Other situations include those in which a state with jurisdiction over a custody case declines jurisdiction or no other state may assert jurisdiction over the child.

Source: Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, © Gale Cengage. All Rights Reserved.

Comments

Please help ,we don’t know where to start . So I choose here . The parents divorced going on 3 years ago . But she said and her father both , they would ruin the Dad before this over . Yes I know threats which these Christian always have . My husband and I have worked so hard to get along w our X daughter in law for the children’s sake . It’s been so hard . We have watched our teenage granddaughter made to lie and I’m not taking sides at all . The oldest lived w us for 9 months .. was ordered into children’s services and asked all kids nds of questions about her parents . That night she was showering at my home her mother called and was screaming at me to get her . I said she is in the shower can she call u back . After being called awe full things I opened the shower door and said yourMom will not wait . My g daughter put the phone on speaker . I left but could hear both screaming my gdaughter crying.. she came to me and said I thought my visit today at CS was confidential? I said honey I wasn’t with you ? Did they say that ? She said yes . I said why .. she said my Mom is s reaming saying I didn’t say what I was suppose to say . I said did u tell the truth ? YES. I did . Well then , she is just guessing at what you said honey because they must of dropped what she said about your Dad ?
Ok that was before there divorce was final , the mother took off and was gone for 3 months I think it was , just having a fun old time . No Job no kids . She never worked any length of time she would get fired , but it was never fault . Or she was always getting sexually harassed? And quit . I’m trying to make anyone and I mean anyone u detstand this situation.. no body could ever believe it ever .. it’s so tiring to try to recall .. at the cost my grand babies . But she smooth talk any one and I mean any one men just melt she can streight to your fave and u would think she was a angle . I know anyone reading this will think I just hate my x in law kid ... no way I’m past that stage .. to I pity her so much , we have tried and tried to help her . She has never been taught the value of a dollar . A shopaholic.. she got into them fast cash . Where you barrow your paycheck like a day before u get paid ?? I don’t understand either... well it’s my son the Dsds fault also .. he should of Checked on his finance once in awhile !! But he said in front of his lawyer Dad never did .. his lawyer said I do t either .. u should be able to trust your wife ... he pulled out a folder the lady at his bank had been making , she said it was against the law for her to call him and alert him as to what was happening . Things like this 9000.00 in over draft charges in one year . Yes that is the gods honest truth . There Home was getting ready to go into foreclose.. the 99 thousand that they had in a saving account was gone .
The lady at the ban said they have tried and tried to figure this mess out and couldn’t . Ok broke . This would be the second time we paid everything off all utilities months behind the Home thousands his veh 4 month , but kept her paid up.. at least it was in his name like everything because she had no credit.. so she is living w her parents 2 miles from the sons home w the 3 kids and the baby was just 3 .
The father had rules still does , didn’t take long before mom said come live here . No rules . The oldest cane to our home for almost a year but she would not listen to us came home when she wanted , we asked nothing of her except no LIEING and be home on time . The times her own patents set., well as much as I love her .. my own children didn’t do us like this , she wasn’t . I mean what was it teaching her .. not to listen no consequence?? So she back to dear old Dsd .. her choice ... she could of went to moms .. so Dad has the same rules .. so she lied and wrecked her car .. Dad says well u will have to share me until I get enough saved up to fix it .. imgosh well that was going to work for this 16 year old .. she wanted s new car .. Dad says I don’t have the wrecked one paid for ... one day you will
Learn . But she won’t .. her mom still has no concept of the dollar and she don’t either . So off to moms she went .. found real fast Mom don’t share her car... and then grandparents had a older work car they were nice enough to let her drive .. but she made sure every one knew she hated the ugly car .. her mom posted all over the internet her Dad a dead deat dad cause he took her car from her ??? Now maybe some of u might be getting a tiny bit of the picture ..
She also posted pic of her and the girls in these walks for battered wife’s and children ... I swear to u I thought is she just crazy .. they lived in her home town .. she had no friends there ... but everyone liked my son .. again it takes 2 it’s both of there faults nit letting off free .. it’s like a movie of the week ... I have not even touched the surface .. everytime she takes him back to court it for money purely for money .. oh by the way she was getting child support for the daughter that lived w me and never gave her a dime .. at one point she was Cole ting child support for all 3 and they were living w there Dad .. ?? But law is not made for Dads at all .. This how awful , evil
It gets .. the fathers last lawyer I went w him to try to help him remember even 1/2 of this mess .. this wonderful man the lawyer told my son his was the last case of family law he would ever do .. this case .. the lawyer lost sleep over , he seen joe first hand the crap that being pulled in the court system . Like the fathers first lawyer was talking and texting his x wife yes his daughter told him that and said Dad they know each other , the state patrol officers that kept giving the father a hard time every time he got in his car .. she had been seen w him several times , w in weeks the officer and wife divorced and moved about 40 miles away ...
Ok so at court ever time she had to have a police escort ??because the father was a animal ... also she would only exchange the little boy at the police station .. she was afraid of the Dad .. get ready to laugh at our system . She and court said the 3 kids needed to see these conselers u know because they were having difficulties. The very day the papers were signed the very day he said he would give more money that’s all she want . She No longer needed a ice escort , she said here is my address (of course before the monster might get them ) just come here to get him ??? So he has to get him and she says come in and see everyone .. he said just jet him Will you ..
The little boy thinks Daddy is the best thing since chips . And he says daddy please come see my room . So in he goes his daughters laying all over .. HiDad how ya doing ? Like nothing just happened , like they didn’t just write a bunch of lies about the father ??
In the name of money .. oh and the 3 kids never had another counselor visit after that ... but now do u think the ohio court or law see s this ??
She is now in the process of saying my 5 year old g-son is not Safe w his father ??? Some crazy paper was served to him .. we have not seen our g-son in 3 weeks nor has his Dad . That is snot 15 contempt of courts .. filed on her .. to this day she will not let us nor his dad see him.. unless we are baby set by her ...
We have had that baby more then any one , and we all knew it ticked her off because her parents just are not that fond of baby setting .. well when it comes to this kind of law crazy stuff there all into it .. they are that kind of mentality none of them hold down jobs What I should say is they are job jumpers .. oh and thru this all her one sister worked for CS in the county this was all in . The father finally had to call and have his file closed so her sister would stop
Printing it out .. nice right .
Again it both in our oppion it took both of them the parent .. in her own way she does love this little boy .. we are scared to death now ., if they give her full cosody of him .. he will
Not make it .. and I will hold the court to blame . The little guy wad to gave his tonsils removed .. but he sick all winter long .. he had pneumonia twice last winter .. the day he was to have his tonsel s our .. we told his dad . He is to sick to have surgery .. we just had him yesterday, we told her and as usual she rolled her eyes at us . Now we’re telling to tell that Surgon!!! She told us she took her vacation already to stay home w him , he was having it . Omg we didn’t know what to do .. Do our son calls and said he told the Dr . When he came to see him right before surgery .. you mean to tell me your going to do this surgery as sick as he is ? The Dr . Said what do u mean ? There was a phone call place to your home , if this child is sick at all call to reschedule.. he said no you called his Mothers home and she wants this done today . The dr listen to his chest .. he said No way .. I almost a little one last week because the parents didn’t know when there kids are sick ... NOW THIS IS JUST ONE CASE .. while this little boy is having pneumonia 2 times in a few months .. she never took him to the dr . After his first pneumonia spell , I texted her and said he had it again .. did u finish all his meds like directed .. I knew she didn’t because he didn’t like it and if it’s hard to do .. she isn’t going to .. plus the mother was left at our house and she never once asked for it !!!! She ran hi to the emergency room .. only because she never read the directions or just acted like always she knew mire .,
It said th follow up w your family dr ... and I knew she didn’t .. I asked her before she had a chance to think .., during all of this the 18 year old g-daughter has a STAFF INFECTION.., if you how contagious this is and dangerous.. at the top
Of leg going up to her butt check .. was not taken to the dr .. until was so sick plus at school had drain thru her pants to where people could see it .. now she never told the school . Think about every towel seat she set on every chair when it drain thru . They told no one .. my son found our because he carries the insurance.. and read it . Hen asked his daughter .. then she said I was in the hospital for 2 days also but her mom didn’t want any of us know or anyone .. and that little boy she is tring push thru surgery ... these are just part of it .. and they always think she is victim .. I know neither one of them should be allow to have these kid . It took both of them to make 1/2 parent .,
But she has everyone thinking she is mother of the year . She said we could only see him right now if we came to her rented place where she could monitor our visit ... we decined .. we k I went this is .. she is doing the same thing to this little boy she done to the girls .. say this this this .... the middle child try to take her own life shorty after she was made to lie ... she is like a zombie anymore full of depression..
But we have no idea who long he has planned this .. this is what she lives for drama . I begged her not to put these kids through this crap again .. well the oldes will be off child support in a few months.. so now we what thus about . PLEASE HELP I NEED TO KNOW WHAT TO DO IN OHIO , I have never had s lawyer since I bought my home 40 some years ago ... ITS KINDA TRUE HIS DAD SAID SHOULD I BOTHER W A LAWYER ? U know she had it all planned out like she did last time W THE LADY THE COURT ORDERS TO VISIT W THE PARENTS ECT .. sure .. what crook of shit .. our grandson said her name and I thought to myself I heard that nzne before .. so I asked his Dad sure enough that was the Lay person for this case .. little guy said Aaron is out New best friend mommy says .. we go eat w her and everything .. this women kept extending there case pushing it back saying she wasn’t ready , because the mother lived w her parents for over a year , left the kids there non stop ..gave her time to not only find a place to rent .. helped her set it up .., well I know her name and what town she lives in ... she was fooled by a family of internet Christians .. She gave her my little grandson who would mire then likely be dead right now !! If we had gotten on the father to tell the surgeon before they put this baby out .
I need a lawyer not only to see him as we pick him up every wed and frida from her choice of day cars and keep him every other week end them are the fathers days .. he got screwed by her best new friend the Lay person who by the way visited the father ONE TIME W the little boy .. and became the mother s best friend ..
Tell me something is crooked in that county .. but something else is odd . She has s lawyer from Findlay .. this time who if you google him wax arrested for beating his wife ? I DO NOT LIE !!! Why would she not get other 2 lady lawyers ? The last one was the also the a big shot in CS over in that county and her first one they call the man eater ?? Why is did she change again ? Jesus I could be tell this story again
Now either she owes them
Both money .. which right now I swaer only life .. on
My answering machine there are maybe 8 or 9 place that left messages for my x in law .. she put our phone # down o they call her on stop tring to collect from her ..she never paid the bills I’m so sorry to any one that had tried to make since of this .. I’m sure it sounds all messed up , but I keep remembering stuff . Si I’m going to print this . There has rove something we can do .. NOW WHY WOULDNt she want us to c him like we have for the last 3 years ?? We r the biggest part of his life .. and I know she appreciates us as much as she can .. but she wants it to be her parents that want him .., she has some type of mental something her own family said that .. trust me if you don’t agree w her look out .. I always had to buy my way ... the buck stops here .. By God some body needs to clean up some of these small town courts and I’ll kiss yours if you lick mine .
This my grandsons life I’m talking .. give her full cosody . And he won’t make it .. and by God I will find the Hardin County Eddiots that done this time ....
IM VERY SORRY WAY TO MUCH INFOMATION BUT I FEEL
I FEEL A TAD BETTER GETTING THIS RAVE OUT
U CAN JUST DELETE IT WE JUST GRANDPARENTS WHO NEVER WANTED TO RAISE OUR GRANDKIDS
BUT WE HAVE HAD THIS LITTLE GUY MORE THEN ANY OF THEM HE ALWAYS ASKES US IF HE CAN LUVE W US AND CALLUS MOMMY SND DADDY .... it so sad he hates the bs all time the fighting where he lives .. the oldest fights w everyone all the time .. but of course it’s suppose to be a secret .. WE NEVER ENCOURAGE THIS . We just say I u have a mommy and daddy .. and tickle him . But how sad ... this she why she will not let him come to our house right now .. like he has for 3 years ... she is brainwashing him like she did the girls .. making say bad stuff about dad ..
If there is a God in heaven ... some one will help
Before this little guy gets as screwed up as sisters from being out in the middle of parents . It a affects these kids forever . It’s a sad sad thing . And we people put in control of these babies lives like that Lay person before .. that had no idea my god these people don’t even have kids or a spouse but she was the exspert ??! No she liked drinking wine with s dip air head ... I’m bet I’m kick off already lol ty god bless us grandparents the real one I mean ..

maincut@roadrunner.com on 2017-11-17 23:09:49

I am a grandparent fighting to get custody of my grandchildren. the children were removed from my home because of allegations, my grandchildren have been gone for six months and now my oldest grandson does not want to come home and because of his decision I might loose the other younger . can they give me custody of the other children even if the oldest wants to stay with the foster parent?

19lydiatorres13@gmail.com on 2017-10-20 00:11:20

There are various rights that we are not aware. I think the best way to know about rights is to contact a lawyer. I am familiar with the lawyer Bechara Tarabay that I found at http://annuaire.actes-types.com/avocat/tarabay-bechara/ile-de-france/paris-75/paris-16eme-75016/bechara-tarabay-avocats-53393.htm. It is better to consult a professional to know about legal rights.

dennisriley017@gmail.com on 2017-07-27 04:36:35

My grandson is 15 and was adopted by my wife's daughter, who has never married. His mother has no parental skills. She has always given him whatever he wanted, except, help with his studies, parental guidance. She doesn't know how to say no to something or keep on him about his studies. They don't communicate with each other and are always yelling at each other. The boy is now doing whatever he wants without guidance and is failing all his studies. . He stays up at nights communicating with his friends through Xbox. What as a grandfather can I do to step in to get this boy what he needs, like education, guidance and so on.

bobbyconley@comcast.net on 2017-05-07 08:50:07

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