Divorce doesn’t just affect the immediate family members. It also alters the lives of extended family, like grandparents.
Grandparents, especially those on the father’s side, are less likely to see their grandchildren after divorce. In large part, kids who live exclusively or most of the time with their mothers spend significantly less time with their paternal grandparents.
Let’s look into the issues surrounding the amount of time grandparents spend with grandchildren post-divorce. We’ll also answer the question, “What rights do grandparents have to play a role in their grandchildren’s lives?”
Divorce is heartbreaking on both sides of family lines. Even grandparents suffer. Often wanting to help their family thrive but not knowing how, they may feel helpless as they watch the divorce play out. Too often, they see less and less of the grandkids.
Children brave so much during a divorce. Losing more family members, like their grandparents, is unnecessary and unfair. It’s especially sad to the child if they had a strong bond with their grandparents and the extra loss was avoidable.
Additionally, people are living longer, and parents are having fewer children. This sets the stage for a grandparent to be a more significant part of the family unit for a more extended period of a child’s life– into their 20s, 30s, or 40s. That could equal decades of a disrupted grandparent-grandchild relationship.
The grandparent-grandchild relationship is special and mutually beneficial for many reasons. These include:
Grandparents can pursue legal means to get more time with their grandchildren. The best place to start is with mediation or family dispute resolution. This route can lead to the most productive outcomes. Legal recourse can always come after exhaustive efforts to reason with parents.
Grandparents can ask a judge for visitation rights if parents have refused or are uncooperative. A judge’s decision in these cases heavily relies on three critical factors:
Grandparents bear the burden of proof in gaining judge-ordered visitation rights. That means they must prove their presence in their grandchild’s life is in the child’s best interests. They must make a compelling argument to overcome the courts’ automatic presumption that parents make the best judgment call on if and when a child shall visit their grandparents.
Sometimes, grandparent visitation is emotionally painful for the child or the grandparent-parent relationship is too volatile. In such cases, courts favor the child’s best interest and support the parent’s decision. Judges also consider the child’s wishes and mental ability in such cases.
When grandparents can’t see their grandchildren as much as they want, they can use technology to help them. Today’s tech is relatively intuitive to use. Grandparents won’t need much (or any) help to start a social media account and add their family members.
Additionally, grandparents can request their child or former daughter/son-in-law to add them to their shared parenting app. It’s the number one way divorced families keep up-to-date with schedules, events, pictures, and essential documentation.
The wishes and judgments of older, mentally capable children are given higher consideration than younger ones. Age 14 holds special significance in many jurisdictions.
Typically, legal counsel and judges respect a child’s wishes if they are 14 or older. Despite any judgments giving grandparents visitation rights (ex. overnight stays, weekly calls) the child may refuse, and there’s no forcing them.
For children under 14, courts consider their preferences and opinions depending on age and maturity level. For example, if a 10-year-old able-minded child refuses to see his grandparents, the grandparents would have to convince a judge otherwise to gain visitation rights.
Suppose a child’s father passes away and his parents have provided child support. Courts may regard their visitation or custody request more highly. They should speak with legal counsel immediately if they seek more time in their grandchild’s life.
Paternal grandparents only have visitation rights if their son is the established father. The father establishes parenthood in one of four ways. He had to have been married to the mother, signed the birth certificate, filled out a voluntary declaration of paternity, or taken a paternity test as proof. Without one of these four, his claim on a child is unsubstantiated, and his parents also have no legal rights.
Grandparents who believe one or both parents are unwilling or unable to care for their child have a strong case for custody or visitation rights. They should speak to legal counsel immediately.
Divorce affects more than the parents. It affects children and grandparents, too. Grandparents often provide invaluable support to their children and grandchildren. However, the child’s best interests and the fit parent’s decisions come before anything else.
Grandparents wishing to keep in touch with their grandchildren can get a helping hand from technology. Social media brings disconnected families together every day.
Divorced family apps can also help. Families can share schedules, pictures, and monetary gifts. While grandparents might not always have the option to be there when they want, they can keep some semblance of connection intact with technology.