Grandparents can be an important part of a child’s life, but they may not always be allowed access to their grandchildren. This can be a result of separation, death, or other personal reasons.
When grandparents can’t see their grandkids, they may have the right to petition the court for visitation under grandparents’ rights.
What are grandparents’ rights?
Grandparents don’t automatically have legal rights to see, visit, or gain custody of their grandchildren. However, all 50 states have some type of grandparents’ rights statute in place, which allows them to ask the courts to grant visitation rights.1
Child custody and visitation are matters for family court, meaning the laws are made and upheld at the state level and can vary from state to state — especially when it comes to who can visit, when they can visit, and under what circumstances.
Grandparents’ rights by state
Although all 50 states have grandparents’ rights in place, around 20 states have what are called restrictive visitation statutes. These states, like Alabama and Georgia, only allow a grandparent to petition the court for visitation rights if the child’s parents are getting divorced or if one or both parents pass away.
Other states, like Washington and Hawaii, have permissive visitation statutes. These allow grandparents, or other caretakers, to petition the court for visitation for any reason they believe to be in the child’s best interest.
Check with your state’s specific grandparents’ rights laws to see what the process may look like for you.2
How to get grandparents’ visitation rights
For those thinking of filing a petition for grandparents’ rights, it may be helpful to first try to sort through it without involving the courts.
Conversation and mediation
In some instances, it can be enough to have a conversation with the parents of the child to see if it’s possible to agree on a visitation arrangement. If that’s not possible, it could be helpful to try mediation. This process brings in a neutral third party who can help facilitate a conversation and reach an agreement.
File a petition for grandparents’ rights
If neither of these options work, then it may be time to file a petition. To do this, grandparents seeking visitation will have to request a Grandparent Visitation Rights form from their local court system. The form needs to be filled out with the reason they’re seeking visitation rights and evidence to support the case.
Once the forms have been filled out and the evidence gathered, the custodial parents will be served. From there, the courts will set up a hearing where the case will be discussed. The courts will then decide what’s in the best interest of the child.3
The bottom line
If you’re unsure whether filing for grandparents’ rights is a good decision for you, it could be helpful to consult a lawyer. A legal insurance plan gives access to a network of lawyers for a monthly fee.