What are grandparents’ rights and how can they be protected?

In battles of child custody and visitation rights, one almost always thinks of the mother and father of the child involved. In these cases, grandparents’ rights concerning their grandchildren are heavily overlooked and often compromised despite the positive influence they may have on the child’s life.

Unfortunately, there are no nationally mandated rules regarding these rights for grandparents in Arizona or elsewhere, though some states have made small steps in this direction.

Constitutionally, grandparents don’t have any legal rights over their grandchildren so long as the child’s legal parents are able to rightfully fulfill their roles as parents. Some states, however, allow for grandparent’s to petition for visitation rights, but they also shoulder the burden of proving their relationship with their grandchild is in the best interest of the child. Other states provide more of a challenge, though, and require grandparents to prove that the child would be negatively impacted without their presence in his or her life.

No matter the legislation in Arizona or elsewhere, it can be particularly saddening for a grandparent to be unable to be a part of their grandchild’s life. And while there are steps they can take to assure their rights, the process can be daunting and seem nearly hopeless.

The American Bar Association suggests that those seeking grandparents’ rights should avoid going to court and seek mediation instead. A court battle in these cases may do more harm than good, but if it is handled civilly and expertly, in many cases families in these circumstances may see improvement in their relationships and an increased well-being for the child in question.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Constitutional Rights of Grandparents: Do We Have Any?,” Karin Kasdin, March 16, 2012

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