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What are a grandparents' rights in the United States?

Until about 40 years ago, grandparents had no visitation rights in the United States, including the state of California. But a ruling involving the state of Washington and the United States Supreme Court in the year 2000 affected how states can address grandparent visitation rights.

The ruling of the Troxel v. Granville case was complicated to say the least. The United States Constitution grants rights to parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children. Tommie Granville, a mother from Washington State, limited visitations of her children by the child's grandparents to once per month and on holidays. The grandparents petitioned for visitation rights. The Supreme Court ruled that Washington's statute violated the mother's right to "care, control, and custody" of her children. The Court did not, however, address whether non-parent visitation statutes violated the Constitution.

This ruling then allowed states to make their own rulings regarding non-parent visitation rights if it is deemed "in the best interest of the child." However, since the Troxel ruling, state statutes must also substantially defer to the wishes of a fit parent when it comes to determining the child's best interests.

Although it is not always easy to obtain visitation rights for grandparents in the United States, there still are certain situations where it may be possible. For help in achieving these rights, it might be in your best interests to reach out to a law firm familiar with family law and child custody to see what can be done to help you. It is important to remember that the laws vary by state, so reaching out to a local firm may prove to be helpful in learning what you can do to obtain visitation rights for your grandchildren.

Source: FindLaw, "Grandparent Visitation Rights," Accessed Aug. 21, 2017

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