Don’t look to the United States Constitution, there are no grandparents rights clauses to be found. You can look into your state laws but what you will find is that every state has some semblance of grandparents rights law, however, each state law is different, they are not deeply rooted in precedent and the burden of proof sits squarely on the shoulders of the grandparents. The Supreme court ruled in June 2000, Troxel v. Granville Washington State, that in an effort to preserve the best interest of the child as well as the parents rights (protected by Constitutional amendments 1,5,9 & 14) the grandparents have to show that the grandchild will be harmed by not having visitation by the grandparent. This is a truly high legal bar to have to overcome. Things get further complicated by the fact that the laws that apply in most cases are the laws in the state in which the grandchild resides. One more bombshell is that if the grandchild is adopted in most cases grandparents rights are in effect terminated. Wow, what a bummer!
What to do? I refer back to the title of this article.
If you are looking for a silver bullet or guarantees you will need to take a strong magnifying glass and read the words etched on the back side at the base of a Unicorn’s horn. There is no easy solution to grandparents rights for a lot of reasons. When I try to divine a viable solution to this issue I hearken back to an early college logic lesson to illustrate how complex an answer this is. It is called the IF/THEN syllogism: IF life is complicated (and it is) and family is complicated (and it is, exponentially) THEN family life is really, really complicated. Now try to write laws that fairly cover all circumstances for three generations in a family in today’s society.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking I am taking a very serious subject lightly. Not at all. I just want to set the stage in the reality of the moment as it pertains to this subject of grandparents rights which is very near and very dear to this proud grandpa of six wonderful grand kids. I wish I had a message of fairness and simplicity, but wishing doesn’t make it so.
When I started studying this subject a couple of years back I admittedly came at it from a purely self-interest point of view. As I immersed myself into legal briefs, case studies, grandparents organization reports, legislative actions and real life stories of grandparents struggling to hang onto a relationship with their grandchildren I have been buffeted between sadness, outrage, hope, admiration, gratitude and enlightenment.
As a result I have drawn the conclusion that the answer is simple (The best interest of the child is paramount) but it is anything but easy. The answer can’t be legislated but it must be protected by every word of the law. The answer won’t be the product of one person’s thinking. The best interest of the child must be a product of everyone involved. The best interest of the child will require cooperation, not divisiveness at a very difficult time for the family unit.
The best interest of the grandchild will sometimes require grandparents to suspend judgment, withhold comments of opinion, support parental wishes they may not agree with and be present to your grandchild with all of your might. I am reminded of a question asked of me by a friend who was older and wiser than I. He ask “How much are you willing to pay to be right?”. Keep that in mind every moment when it comes to your grandchildren and their parents. Do everything in your power in cooperation with the parents to facilitate the best interest of your grandchildren and you have a much better chance at your grandparents rights. There you have it, the answer as to “What to do”. Be a Caring Grandparent with your grandchild’s best interest always front and center.