When parents become estranged from each other, there are laws in place that ensure that children continue to spend time with both parents, as it's generally acknowledged that in most situations, what's best for the child is to continue to have a relationship with both parents. But what about when adult children and their parents or in-laws are estranged? Isn't it best for children to also have a relationship with their grandparents? Can you sue for visitation in order to be able to spend time with your grandchildren? Take a look at what you need to know about your rights, and what you should do before suing.
Know Your State Laws
Your rights as a grandparent depend largely on your location, as well as the location of your grandchildren. Each state has laws that address grandparents' rights to visitation, but not all of those laws make it easier to legally pursue a relationship with your grandchildren.
For example, Florida law only allows grandparents to petition for visitation if one parent is deceased, in a vegetative state, or missing and the remaining parent has a violent crime or felony conviction on their criminal record. On the other hand, in Kansas, grandparents can petition for visitation if they have had a prior relationship with their grandchildren and can show that the visitation is in the child's best interests.
If you and your grandchildren are living in different states, it's important to note that your state law might not be relevant. Typically, visitation and custody cases are handled in the state the child resides in, though there may be exceptions. Make sure that you know which state you would need to file in, and what their laws are, before deciding to go ahead.
Consider the Drawbacks
Even if you can sue, doing so can have serious drawbacks and may backfire on you. Going up against your grandchild's parent or parents in court can have serious consequences. For example, a heated visitation battle could go on for a while and be very expensive. And even if you can swing the cost, your grandchild's parent may not be able to. If your grandchild's parent experiences financial hardship because of your lawsuit, your grandchild will experience that hardship as well.
You also need to consider the consequences if you lose. A strained family relationship is difficult enough, but a court battle could break the relationship entirely. A negative verdict in court could mean the end of any hope of mending or forging a relationship with your grandchild's parents. If you're certain that the relationship is beyond repair, it may be worth the risk, but if there's a chance of reconciliation, you'd be wise to explore it before going to court.
Alternatives and Options
If you're certain that visitation with you is in your grandchild's best interest, you should explore all of your options, including whether or not you have standing to petition the court. You should know that there are alternatives if you can't or don't yet want to file a visitation lawsuit.
If you're concerned that your grandchild's parents are unfit, you may want to contact Child Protective Services in the area where your grandchild lives. If Child Protective Services determines that the child needs to be removed, they will often consider placing the child with family members, like grandparents. They may also require family counseling and work to help your grandchild's parents establish a family support network, which could include you. If nothing else, at least this way you'll know that someone is checking on your grandchild's safety.
If you're not worried about the fitness of your grandchild's parents, another option may be to broach the idea of family counseling yourself. If that idea is rejected or doesn't solve the problem, you may want to consider mediation, a type of legal negotiation with a neutral third-party. Neither you nor your grandchild's parent has anything to lose by trying mediation — if you can't come to an agreement, you won't be bound to anything.
If all of those options fail, a visitation lawsuit may be your best remaining option.
If you're considering suing for visitation rights with your grandchildren, consult an experienced family law attorney in your area, or check out websites like http://www.ivylawgroup.com. They'll be able to advise you of your rights and help you choose the path that's best for your grandchildren.
Going through a divorce? I know how you might feel – alone, stressed out, and probably even a little sad due to the loss of the life you have always known. Whether you have children or not, you might even feel a little guilty about the break down of your relationship. But I'm here to tell you that a divorce is not the end of the world. In fact, once you get used to the idea and start to move on with your life, you may find just as much, if not more, happiness than you ever had while you were married! Getting through the proceedings of your divorce in a dignified manner is the first step, and hopefully this website will give you the insight, support, and motivation you need to get through the process as painlessly as possible.