Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grandparents, Do You Know Your Rights?

Being a grandparent is a great blessing among my peers. We all celebrate the birth of new grandchildren and happily share pictures of what we know to be the cutest, brightest and sweetest children in the world. This is universal. When I traveled to China I carried a picture of my grandson. Wherever I went I could attract a friendly crowd by showing his picture. Somehow through pointing and sign language we could establish the grandmother bond. I bet we could make greater strides toward world peace and understanding if our diplomats and heads of state shared grandchildren pictures.

It saddens me greatly when I am asked by a grandparent to help him/her establish visitation with grandchildren when the grandparents are estranged from the child’s parents. It saddens me first of all that the relationship is such that the grandparents feel the need to enforce rights and it saddens me because there is little by way of law to help.

In 2000 the United States Supreme Court ruled against grandparents who wanted visitation with their two young granddaughters. The girls’ father had committed suicide and mother refused to let the children see their dad’s parents. In this Washington State case, the high court determined that unless the parent was impaired in some way, the parent was the ultimate decision maker as to the best interests of the child. Jennifer and Gary Troxel had no inherent rights of visitation.

Since then a few state courts have modified the Washington State ruling but primarily in the case of the death of one of the parents. This 2006 article in USA today summarizes some more recent cases. http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/judicial/2006-09-12-grandparents-favored_x.htm The issue apparently has not been addressed circumstances where the parents divorced.

When parents divorce, the grandparents’ rights flow through their son or daughter. When mom or dad has parental time with the children, he/she can include the grandparents. The other parent cannot object to the children seeing their grandparents unless it can be proven that being around the grandparents would be harmful to the children. The grandparents have no independent right to visitation. To better understand this issue, it is important to view it from the parents’ perspective. Parents contend that they should have the ultimate say over who gets to see their children.

Richard Victor, a Michigan lawyer who founded the nationwide Grandparents Rights Organization in 1984, says he has not seen a surge of grandparents trying to go to court. Such lawsuits can take years and tens of thousands of dollars in fees to resolve, he says. "The law in still in flux. It's better to get people to talk to each other, rather than sue each other."

The best advice I can give to grandparents is to get along with the grandchildren’s parents.

1 comment:

Family Attorneys said...

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Illinois Grandparents Visitation Rights