Grandparents play a very important role in a grandchild's life. They offer love, advice, security and support, and grandchildren benefit from this relationship.
In our society, it's not uncommon for grandparents to take care of their grandchildren while the parents work. Sometimes the grandparents live under the same roof as the grandchild, and sometimes they're the ones to raise them.
Unfortunately, life can be complicated. Something changes and the grandparents are no longer able to see their grandchild. This can happen when the child's parents split up or divorce, or when an adult child has a falling out with the grandparent and won't let the grandparent see their grandchildren.
Such relationship problems have caused many grandparents to ask, "Do grandparents have any rights?" While the child custody and visitation laws vary from state to state, in many cases a grandparent can ask the court for visitation rights, especially if a relationship was pre-existing.
Sometimes, a grandparent can even ask for custody when the grandchild's health and safety are at risk.
Guardianship for Grandparents
Under certain circumstances, grandparents will go to court and seek custody because the children's biological parents are incapable of caring for the children.
Grounds for court-appointed guardianship include:
- The child's parents are addicted to drugs
- One or both parents are in jail or prison
- The child was a victim of child abuse
- The parents were neglecting the child
- The parents abandoned the child
If the child's parents are unable to properly care for the child, the grandparents may ask the court for guardianship. With guardianship, the biological parents retain their parental rights and can ask the court for reasonable contact with their child. However, the grandparents become the child's legal caretakers.
Guardianship is distinct from adoption for one simple reason: the court can end the guardianship arrangement if the parents are able to care for their child in the future. Adoption eliminates a parent's future rights, while guardianship allows parents to pursue caretaker status in the future.
To learn more about grandparents' rights in your state, reach out to a family law attorney for help!