The Basics of Grandparents' Rights

Within the past decade or two, there have been dramatic changes to what was once a very traditional relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren. The ever-increasing divorce rate has probably been the single most predominant factor responsible for these changes. However, single parenthood, adult drug and alcohol abuse, as well as economic issues have contributed greatly as well, the results of which have brought about significant changes to what was once a very traditional family structure.

A large percentage of grandparents have petitioned the court in the hopes of obtaining a regular visitation schedule with the grandchildren. Quite naturally, as a by-product of these factors, the individual states have had to address the issues of non-parental custody and the visitation rights of grandparents.

As is the case with other divorce-related issues, the laws with regards to grandparent custody and visitation differ from state to state. There exist today a veritable plethora of viewpoints with respect to these issues in the various state legislatures, courts, and other related legal authoritative bodies. Whereas the authorities generally believe that grandparents and their grandchildren have rights in terms of a continuing relationship, difficulties arise in that it is also believed that these rights should not adversely affect what is known as "parental autonomy," i.e., the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.

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