Grandparents’ rights are an issue of growing importance here in Arizona and across the country. Whether married or not, when parents separate or divorce the grandparents of any children involved often feel disenfranchised. Courts and legislatures have attempted to address the issue of grandparents’ rights for years, and a recent case stretching between two states underscores the fact that the debate continues.

The controlling law is based upon a U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized certain constitutional rights of parents to raise their own children. Despite that, one state near Arizona has had a grandparents’ rights statute on the books for at just about 20 years. A recent case pitting a mother against her own parents in another state has caused some to propose a new law seeking to restore the legal rights of parents. Others, however, claim the current law already accomplishes that.

A relatively new movement is gathering steam in Arizona and elsewhere. More and more grandparents are seeking visitation rights and more with grandchildren and, in jurisdictions where they seemingly have no protection, are spearheading drives to change the law.

Grandparents’ rights have come about as the marriages of their sons or daughters have failed. In some situations, their offspring have moved back home; in others, grandparents have become involved in child custody proceedings, seeking to maintain the bond they have formed with their grandchildren.

Kinship care is a term coined to describe grandparents who are raising one or more grandchildren in their homes. There are a lot of them, and they are becoming more vocal in demanding legislative action to support their cause. It certainly appears that there is good reason, because statistics document that upwards of nine percent of all children will live with an extended family member for at least three continuous months before their 18th birthday.

Some 2.7 million children across our country have lived with grandparents, another extended family member or close family friends, and that alone is an increase of about 18 percent in just the last decade. Be that as it may, grandparents’ rights still have a ways to go in Arizona and elsewhere as the group fights for visitation and the right to raise their children’s offspring when circumstances warrant.

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.

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