Summary in Divorce
Grandparents’ visitation, a concept that swept the courts in the 1970s, became sharply limited at the end of the century in a landmark Supreme Court case, Troxel v. Granville. In Troxel v. Granville, the court, citing a number of cases under the Fourteenth Amendment, ruled that parents have fundamental liberty interest in the care, custody and control of their children.
In general, courts start with the presumption that the parents’ decision regarding third-party visitation (including grandparents) is the child’s best interest. In practice, this means that grandparents face a difficult task of proving the negative: that a lack of visitation is not in the best interest of the child, or, "... will result in harm to the child." In Troxel v. Granville, the high court ruled the best interests of the child standard is not enough. If the grandparents have a strong relationship with the child, or the child actually lived with the grandparents prior to the divorce, and separation from the grandparents would be detrimental to the child’s welfare, a court may order visitation. Grandparents bringing action against their adult children in search of visitation rights with grandchildren should carefully consider this decision. The aftermath of this action is likely to be bitter. An additional resource on this subject is available at www.aarp.org/life/grandparents, and the court case is Troxel v. Granville, 120 S. Ct. 2054 (2000).
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