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What Are Grandparents' Rights?

April 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 164

Grandparents' rights mean the rights that grandparents possess to contact and visit their grandchildren. These rights are usually exercised after a divorce or other situations that cause a family unit to split up. In many cases, the parents who have gained child custody following a divorce do not allow the parents of their former spouses to visit their children. This can be a difficult situation for both the grandparents and the children, especially if they have spent a substantial amount of time together and established a special bond with each other. Some children are so attached to their grandparents that they may be deeply affected by the separation, and this can be detrimental to their development.

In most situations, the rights of custodial parents are given the greatest importance. According to the United States Constitution, parents have the primary right to the custody, care, and control of their children, meaning that they can decide on behalf of their children whether their grandparents should visit them or not. However, courts in some jurisdictions may permit grandparents to contact or visit their grandchildren against the wishes of the custodial parents. Grandparents who are denied access to their grandchildren can gain visitation rights if they can come up with a strong case proving that their absence from the children's lives can have significant negative effects.

Grandparents' rights are not limited to visitation rights; they can also mean custodial rights. Although it is rare, some parents are unfit or unable to provide adequate care for their children. These parents may have serious illnesses or physical disabilities, or they may be living irresponsible lifestyles that are detrimental to their children. There are also parents who abuse their children. In such situations, courts may award custody to the grandparents, because they believe that the children will receive better care and protection if they live with their grandparents.

Grandparents' rights vary from one state to another, with some states giving grandparents more rights than others. Most states, including New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Colorado, and Utah, have established systems to determine whether granting rights to grandparents is in the best interests of the children. For instance, New York establishes a presumption that favors custodial parents' right to decide whether to allow grandparents to visit their children, but it will still award visitation rights to grandparents if they can prove that the children's interest in the visitations is so great that it overrides the presumption.

No matter which state they live in, grandparents who wish to overcome a presumption of parental rights will have a hard time getting approval from the courts. Those who are able to provide evidence showing that the parents are unfit or the children are being harmed will stand the best chance of gaining visitation rights, or even custody. Courts are also more willing to award visitation rights to grandparents who have been the children's primary caregiver or guardian. Family circumstances, such as the severance of relationship between the custodial parent and the family of the non-custodial parent, can also increase grandparents' chances of attaining visitation rights.

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