In many families, grandparents are among the most important adults in a child's life. The relationship between children and grandparents can be beneficial for all involved. For example, one study found that children who are close to their grandparents have fewer behavioral problems and are more adept at forming peer relationships, while another study showed that grandparents who spend time with their grandchildren regularly got better scores on cognitive tests than grandparents who didn't spend time with their grandchildren in another study. But what happens when the parents prevent grandparents and grandchildren from having a relationship? Do you have a right to see your grandchild? There have been high profile court cases where grandparents sought visitation. But before you rush to court, take a look at some things that you should consider.
What Are Your State's Laws?
There is no single law that applies to grandparent visitation across the country. While every state now has a law addressing grandparents' rights, some are more restrictive than others. Additionally, these laws are comparatively new, compared to other types of custody and visitation laws, and even if you get a favorable ruling in family court, there's always the possibility that it could be challenged and overturned by a higher court.
A good starting place is finding out exactly what your state laws say. Some states only grant visitation to grandparents under certain specific circumstances. For example, in Arizona, grandparents can be awarded visitation rights only when the parents have been divorced for at least three months or when the child was born out of wedlock. Also, if the child is adopted by anyone other than a stepparent, grandparents lose any existing visitation rights. Compare that to Connecticut's statutes, which allow the courts to grant visitation to grandparents as long as it's in the child's best interest. In that state, even adoption of the child does not necessarily end a grandparent's right to visitation. That means that if your grandchild's parents are happily married, you wouldn't have standing to sue for visitation if you lived in Arizona, but in Connecticut, you could file a visitation suit if you could make the argument that it was in the child's best interest to have a relationship with you.
What Will The Parents' Reactions Be?
Even if you have standing to sue for visitation, and even if you believe it's the best thing for your grandchild, it's important to consider how the child's parents will react to being taken to court. Generally, there's no need to consider suing for visitation when the grandparents and parents of the child have a healthy relationship with each other. If your relationship with your grandchild's parents is already rocky, then suing for visitation could stretch it even further, perhaps past the breaking point.
You may be willing to risk your relationship with your grandchild's parents if you gain time with your grandchild in the process. But you have to consider the possibility that you'll lose your case, and in the aftermath, it may be even less likely that you'll ever be able to repair the relationship enough for them to allow you time with your grandchild on their own. For this reason, it's important to consider all of your options before going to court.
What Are Your Options?
There are a few things that you may want to consider before going to court. You could suggest family counseling or support groups, with an eye to repairing your relationship with your grandchild's parents. For this to work, it's important that all parties are willing to learn and compromise. Counseling could help all of you learn better communication skills, that will help you improve your relationships with each other and with your grandchild.
Another option is mediation. Mediation is a way to sit down with a neutral party and work out an arrangement that everyone can agree to. In some areas, a family court might require you to try mediation before going to court. You can bring a lawyer with you to mediation, to make sure that your rights are protected and look over any agreement before you sign it. If you aren't able to work out a visitation agreement that everyone is satisfied with, then you can file a visitation lawsuit.
If you're thinking about suing for visitation with your grandchild, it's a good idea to consult a family attorney. They can explain the laws in your area and how they apply in your case, and go over all of your options with you. This can help you decide how best to proceed.