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Child Custody | Divorce | Family

What Rights Are Provided to Grandparents in a Divorce?

3 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Although grandparents do not have specific rights in a divorce, those with a significant relationship with the child may intervene.

In many states, grandparents have visitation or access rights in the event of a divorce. Grandparents may also obtain custody in a divorce, though this is rarer. Sometimes, a grandparent may be formally involved in supporting their grandchild at the time of a divorce process or a legal separation, such as when they pay the child’s medical or educational expenses or a regular allowance to supplement their grandchild’s living expenses.

Grandparent Visitation Rights

Grandparents’ rights ensure that they may maintain a relationship with their grandchildren, even if the parents of the child divorce or separate. Grandparents generally do not have an absolute right to visit their grandchildren. They must show that they have developed a relationship with the child and it is in the child’s best interest to keep that relationship going. 

However, courts generally recognize the importance of a relationship between grandparents and grandchildren. Parents and grandparents are the bedrock of any family. Visitation is also critical for children with limited parent or grandparent contact.

A child’s right to grandparent visitation is dependent upon the rights of the child’s parents. Generally, if a parent has full custody over a child, they can deny visitation access.

If the ex-spouse’s parents have been denied visitation rights, they may be able to pursue their case in court.

However, a child is entitled to grandparent visitation under certain circumstances. Courts often consider grandparent rights on a case-by-case basis.

Grandparent Visitation Rights in Court

Grandparents can pursue legal action to obtain visitation rights. Generally, a grandparent seeking visitation rights with their grandchild must submit a visitation rights petition to a family court where their grandchild lives.

Grandparents have the right to seek visitation with their grandchildren if they can show that such visits would be in the child’s best interests. Generally, the grandparent must show that:

  • A meaningful relationship exists between child and grandparent
  • Grandparent visitation would be in the child’s best interest
  • Denying grandparent visitation would harm the child

Do Grandparents Have a Right to Custodianship?

If a child’s grandparents are willing to be a child’s guardian – and the child’s parents are unable to care for the child (including for reasons of abuse and neglect) – courts and state agencies are highly likely to favor putting children in their grandparents’ care.

As family members with experience raising children, grandparents are expected to have the capacity to provide a safe, nurturing environment for a child in need of security or guidance.

If a deceased parent left a child, the child’s grandparents may have a right to request guardianship. Ultimately, courts will consider the child’s best interest and consider the relationship between the child and the grandparent.

Parents’ Role in Facilitating Grandparents’ Rights

It is beneficial for a child’s parents and grandparents to cooperate to ensure children have access to their grandparents, without the stress of family court.

Custodial parents can do their part to facilitate and encourage visitations by keeping lines of communication open with grandparents. Grandparents can seek to work around the needs of custodial parents.

If one parent in divorce proceedings gets custody of the children, grandparents also may have visitation rights depending on the state.

Fixing Grandparent Rights Situations

Grandparents can have a difficult time in the divorce process or claiming custody of their grandchildren.

A family lawyer is the appropriate type of attorney to help resolve this situation. An family attorney can represent a grandparent’s interests during the divorce process, or get protect their time with grandchildren.

Most family law attorneys charge a retainer fee of $3,000 to $5,000 to begin work on a complex case. However, the attorneys who work with Unbundled Legal Help also offer affordable pay-as-you-go options, starting between $500 and $1,500. This gives grandparents the ability to call in a lawyer only for the parts of a case they need help, while the grandparents take care of the rest.

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