Do Grandparents' Legal Rights Vary by State?


Quick Answer

Grandparents have no automatic legal rights in any state, according to AARP. As of 2013, 37 states afford grandparents the right to petition the court for visitation regardless of the marital status of the parents, according to the American Bar Association.

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Do Grandparents' Legal Rights Vary by State?
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Full Answer

States allowing grandparents to petition for visitation have varying requirements that must be met for the court to award visitation. The establishment of a significant relationship or proof that it is in the best interest of the child to have a relationship with the grandparents may be required, according to the ABA. Visitation may also be allowed if the parents have unreasonably denied the grandparents contact with the child. Some states require proof of future harm to the child if he is not allowed a relationship with his grandparents, which is a more difficult burden of proof. The right to petition for visitation may be granted if the parents are divorced or incarcerated, or if one of the parents has died.

Referrals for legal assistance and summaries of state visitation laws can be accessed through the ABA. It is recommended that prior to any legal action grandparents focus on building positive relationships and open communication with the parents, addressing small problems before they become big ones.

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