All About Grandparents’ Rights

A common question when determining custody of children is whether, and to what extent, grandparents have a claim to custody, visitation, and guardianship of children. It can be difficult to make important decisions regarding custody or guardianship of a child when the family is at odds.

Every situation is unique, and the manner in which decisions are made by the court depend on the specific nature of the case. However, the most important factor in every child custody case is the best interests of the child. It is not uncommon for some courts to present grandparents as alternative sources of care for children whose parents are not physically or emotionally fit for the task.

Who Should Care for Children?

In cases where the ability of both parents is compromised due to death, illness, drug use, incarceration, or so on, the court will examine whom the parents have chosen to care for the children. In cases where parents have not explicitly outlined an individual, the claim to guardianship that grandparents have depends largely on state laws. Some states will default to the grandparents as guardians if they are available, in good health, and willing to care for the children. Others will assume the children become wards of the state, unless a family member or grandparent makes a specific case to become their guardians.

Because these rights vary from state to state, and are also examined on a case-by-case basis, it is generally advised to seek legal advice when determining guardianship. The bottom line for most cases is that the court will decide in favor of whomever it believes stands to provide the best life for the children. Factors considered include the ability to provide children with their basic needs such as food and shelter, access to education, home stability, physical health, and emotional support.

Grandparents Are Important

Grandparents can be a major influence on a child, especially when those children have suffered from unstable home lives. Grandparents typically become the guardian of a child when there is some form of traumatic event, such as a death, arrest, or serious illness, and thus it is important for them to be able to extend the proper amount of care.

Grandparents also benefit from caring for or being involved in the lives of their grandchildren. A recent study found that people who are actively involved in their grandchildren’s lives tend to be healthier and happier. A University of Virginia study found that grandparents who hug their grandchildren more have lower levels of stress and higher oxytocin levels.