When a couple breaks up, it does not just affect them and their immediate family. Extended family can also be devastated by the end of a marriage. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who have a relationship with the family and the children can be confused and scared. They may be fearful of losing relationships that are important to them. Will both parents still continue to be in their lives? Will there be restricted access to the kids?
Can I get a court-order to see my grandchildren?
Of all the extended family, the grandparents arguably have one of the closet relationships to the grandchildren. Anger and sadness could affect their relationships with the opposite parent and restricted visitation might ensue. Is there anything a grandparent can do?
Prior to 2001, many states had "grandparent visitation" laws on the books. These laws allowed the grandparents to request a court order to spend time with their grandkids. In 2001, the Supreme Court of the United States nullified these laws--ruling that the government cannot interfere in the way parents choose to raise their children.
Since then, some states have passed specific and less broad laws--some now allow grandparents to request visitation if they have lived with the grandchildren, or if after a divorce, one parent is refusing to allow the grandkids to see their grandparents. These laws are very specific and they have not yet been tested on appeal to the Supreme Court.
What can you do?
In Ohio, there are three specific circumstances when a grandparent may seek court-ordered visitation: if the mother is unmarried, if the couple divorces, and if one parent (their child) is deceased. In addition, there are several factors that are considered in granting grandparent visitation. The most important one, however, is the welfare of the child and whether visitation would be beneficial. Therefore, it is important to note that a court does not automatically grant grandparent visitation.
Grandparents who are interested in spending time with their grandchild, who have had a relationship with the child and who are being denied access, would be wise to discuss their options with a qualified family law attorney.