Understanding Grandparents Visitation Rights

Grandparents visitation rights are a sensitive issue in divorce. Things must be handled with care to avoid acrimony and adding hostility to an already stressful fork in a family's road. Patience and cooperation will go a long way in making the whole process smoother, and that grandparent' visitation rights are handled fairly. This article lights the way to a more amiable agreement.


Grandparents' Rights: When Your Kids Divorce

by Donna Ferber

Grandparents on beach with grandkids

When a bitter divorce has occurred in the family, grandparents' often fear that the spiteful ex-spouse will cut off their relationship with the grandchildren. 

Sometimes grandparents panic and rush to petition the courts before allowing anger and resentment to calm down. Many situations, given time, can be worked out amicably. The rush to court only escalates the adversarial climate. When that occurs, parents and grandparents may carry resentment at being "forced" into an agreement. If grandparents can be patient and allow the divorce process to evolve without panicking about their own issues, it will serve everyone's best interests.

It is more effective for the grandparents to offer support to the divorcing couple and try to minimize the acrimony. In this way, they are supporting their grandchildren. Stirring the pot by bringing another act of litigation only causes more turmoil. When possible, the non-custodial grandparents should work out visitation through the non-custodial parent. The non-custodial parent's time should be used to fulfill all family obligations on his/her side.

However, in cases where the non-custodial parent is not involved with the children - because he/she lives in another state, or does not have visitation rights - then the grandparents need to deal with the custodial parent. It is in everyone's best interest to try to keep the lines of communication open.

The grandparents should be as neutral as possible, be supportive of the whole family and never badmouth either parent to the child. This kind of alienation only upsets and confuses the child, diminishes the relationship between parent and grandparent, and creates more hostility. Most importantly, as with all alienation, the effect on the children can be extremely damaging. Remember that children are acutely aware of their connection to, and identification, with each parent. Therefore, when you attempt to demean a parent to the child, you result in demeaning the child as well.

As a concerned grandparent, consider having a discussion with all the adults and asking them to be patient and not to choose sides. Grandparents and parents have rights and concerns, but those will have to take a back seat to the needs of the children. Respectful communication is one of the ways you continue to support the family in transition. It is also another way to effectively protect the children from further stress.

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