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Grandparents’ rights to visitation a thorny issue

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2011 | Firm News

Grandparents in Texas, as well as throughout the nation, are increasingly raising issues in court concerning their rights to visit with their grandchildren.

The troublesome issue with grandparents’ rights is that the issues arise in cases where the parents have divorced (and sometimes remarried), as well as cases in which one parent has died or relocated. Even in cases involving an intact two-parent family, there sometimes are disputes over what role a specific grandparent is allowed to play in a child’s life.

The U.S., Supreme Court in 2000 established a legal standard which mandates that courts should ordinarily respect the decisions of competent custodial parents concerning whether third parties, including grandparents, may be allowed to visit their children, with court intervention to modify such decisions only allowed when deemed in the best interests of the child.

This standard, however, has been interpreted differently in various states, and the Supreme Court is currently deciding whether it is time to either clarify or modify that standard. Grandparents’ advocacy organizations are pushing for a reconsideration of the issue.

Grandparents argue that too many courts have ignored the importance of the role that they can play in a child’s life. In some jurisdictions, grandparents are only allowed their day in court to challenge the scope of permissible visitation when the parents have excluded them from their grandchild’s life altogether.

Other courts have required grandparents pressing for visitation rights to show that continued denial will damage a child in an irreparable way, imposing the burden on them of showing this by clear and convincing evidence. This is a burden higher than the normal burden of proof of a preponderance of the evidence used in most civil cases.

Source: The Associated Press, “States’ grandparent visitation laws raise concern,” Stephanie Reitz, Nov. 5, 2011