13 Nov Everything You Should Know About Grandparents’ Rights
The relationships between grandparents and their grandchildren are unlike any other. Grandparents help to foster a child’s development, and a child may feel more comfortable expressing feelings to them than to their own parents. That’s one of the reasons that divorce is such an incredibly tough situation. When parents decide to end their marriage, grandparents are left wondering how their relationships with their grandchildren will change. This article overviews everything you should know about grandparents’ rights if you ever find yourself in a tricky situation.
The Laws Vary Between States
Not every state has the same laws regarding grandparents’ rights. In fact, Washington State used to allow grandparents to petition for visitation of their grandchildren. Yet, the Supreme Court overruled this law 2000 when they ruled that parents have a constitutional right to determine the upbringing of their children. Essentially, the ruling made it so that parents can decide if they want their children to see their grandparents.
This ruling was changed in 2018, allowing grandparents to petition for visitation once again. However, the courts take “special weight” to any parent who objects to these visitations because they operate under the assumption that most parents have their children’s best interests in mind. Grandparents must prove they have a strong relationship with their grandchild and that no issues will occur while the little one is in their presence. They must also show the courts that the child will suffer if they are not able to maintain the relationship. Again, these petitions are incredibly challenging to win because the burden of proof is high; parents typically have more say than grandparents. The rest of this article will discuss exceptions to this law and how grandparents can make the most out of their visitations with their grandchildren.
Exceptions To the Rule
There are some exceptions to the law regarding grandparents’ rights in Washington State. Grandparents can file a petition for non-parental custody if they believe the parents are unfit or if the child is about to enter foster care. They will need a trusted attorney by their side for either one of these circumstances to work in their favor. LaCoste Family Law has an experienced child custody lawyer in Washington State. Our team works tirelessly for our clients because we have the child’s best interests in mind throughout the entire process. We understand the critical role that grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives, so we want to secure that relationship as much as possible.
If grandparents are filing a non-parental custody petition, they must be able to prove to the courts that they can take care of a child. They must show the courts that they can provide a safe environment for any child in their care and that, at their age and in their condition, they are still physically and mentally capable of taking care of that child. The courts will also want to ensure that no abuse or neglect will occur if a transfer of custody takes place. An experienced family law attorney can help get the documentation necessary so that they can take their grandchildren home.
Factors To Keep in Mind
Grandparents who don’t win non-parental custody of their grandchildren must then try their hardest to maintain an amicable relationship with the child’s parents, which may be difficult if the court proceedings were less than amicable. If the courts grant a grandparent visitation under a petition, the grandparents must keep certain things in mind while the child is in their care. For starters, grandparents should never speak poorly of a child’s parents during a visit. Visitation petitions are difficult to win in the first place; the court can easily revoke them if a parent discovers that the grandparents are bad-mouthing them to their children.
Another important factor to keep in mind regarding visitations is to keep them as regular and smooth as possible. If the courts did grant visitation rights, it was likely because the grandparents were able to prove they have a strong relationship with the child who would sustain harm if that bond was fractured. Thus, grandparents must do everything in their power to be polite and consistent and prove to the courts that the ruling was the correct one. If the visits are irregular, or if the grandparents act erratically while their grandchild is visiting, the parents can tell this to the court and ask for a reversed decision.
Finally, grandparents who have visitation should be as communicative as possible with everyone involved. Divorces can be messy, especially when they involve custody issues. However, adults in the situation need to put their feelings aside and do what is right for the child. This means being communicative during visits and letting parents know if there are any issues while the child is in their care. Things will not work if everyone is angry with each other and only thinking of themselves instead of the children involved.
Grandparents provide security to their grandchildren. This security is especially vital during a challenging time like a divorce. Sadly, grandparents don’t have much weight when it comes to gaining visitation rights of their grandchildren. The parents have “special weight” when it comes to determining decisions about their children’s upbringing. Yet, this does not mean that all hope is lost. If grandparents in Washington State can meet the burden of proof and show the courts that fracturing the relationship will cause harm to their grandchild, then they may get visitation.
This article has explained everything you should know about grandparents’ rights. Hopefully, parents and grandparents can come together to develop a plan that works well for the children involved. Anyone in the middle of this tricky situation should contact LaCoste Family Law immediately. Whether you are seeking visitation or full non-parental custody, you’ll need a trusted family law attorney by your side to fight with you in court. Our team does more than sort through the documentation. We support every one of our clients through one of the most challenging times in their lives with a great deal of empathy and kindness.