Grandparents Have Rights Too
Kris Jenkins, Human Environmental Sciences Specialist, Bates County, University of Missouri
Traditionally, grandparents visit their grandchildren whenever they want. Grandparents often send cards and gifts, visit via telephone or email and plan activities or trips. Many grandparents also provide child care while parents work. This regular contact is mutually beneficial to everyone.
But in recent years, the rights of grandparents have been complicated by issues of divorce, parental custody and the increasing number of children who are born to unmarried parents. Sadly, what often happens is that the parents of the non-custodial parent get to see their grandchildren little or not at all.
Grandparent’s rights are a controversial issue. Should grandparents be denied access to their grandchildren? Should the court interfere with the parents’ right to determine who has access to their children?
The best approach for grandparents is to attempt to find a resolution without a court visit Try these tips:
- If the grandchild’s parents are getting a divorce or separating, ask them to include a visitation schedule for you in the divorce or custody agreement.
- If your relationship with the parents has been difficult, try and work out a compromise for the sake of the grandchildren.
- Seek a trained mediator. Much less expensive than a lawyer, these experts help families find a middle ground.
- Keep in touch with your grandchildren with cards, telephone calls or by email. Keep a log of these contacts in case you have to prove an established relationship.
- Never put your grandchildren in the middle with negative remarks about their parents.
If none of these tips work, there is still hope. In all 50 states, grandparents have certain visitation rights—but how extensive or limited depends on the state.
Both Missouri and Kansas have grandparents’ visitation statutes. Grandparents do have visitation rights if parents are divorced or divorce is pending, the parent is deceased or the child is born out of wedlock. However, it is not automatic. They must prove that they have a substantial relationship with the grandchild and that visitation is in the best interest of the minor child. Grandparents have the burden of proof on both of these matters. They must also be able to prove that the denial of visitation is unreasonable. In both states, these rights do not apply to grandchildren whose parents are still married.
It is important for children to spend time with their grandparents and extended family. In today’s, difficult world, there can never be too many caring and loving people in a child’s life.
Last Updated 05/12/2009