In the United States, a parent has the legal right to time with their children. The same is not true, however, for grandparents and grandchildren. Often, complicated or tragic situations lead to grandparents falling out of connection with the parents of their grandchildren, blocking them out of their lives. When a parent objects, what legal options do grandparents have to be able to spend time with their grandchildren?
Traditionally, grandparents do not have rights to set visitation with their grandchildren, as parents receive when they divorce. However, Washington state has tried to carve out ways to allow it to happen. A recent statute enacted in Washington state allows anyone who has a pre-established relationship with a child to ask for visitation rights with them, basically clearing the way for grandparents. It isn’t a simple process, however.
The visitation rights issue is sensitive because you can only petition the court asking for it once. If you go for it, you have to be able to prove in court that it would be detrimental to the child to not have a relationship with their grandparent. You have to have all your evidence put together in advance.
If the visitation is granted, all of the fiscal responsibility of the visitation is placed on the grandparent requesting it. They will have to cover the entire cost of the visitation and potentially pay for the parent’s legal fees as well. Since the law is still relatively new, the precedent about what the standards are is significantly limited.
For these reasons, your first action should be trying all the possible methods to see your grandchildren that do not involve going to court. This could mean reconciling with the parents in order to have some sort of relationship with the grandchildren. Since the visitation can only be sought out in court once, you should try all other options before taking that turn.
For grandparents seeking legal custody of their grandchildren - not just visitation rights - there are even more recent developments at play. The Uniform Guardianship Act for Minors that we wrote about last summer allows the possibility of someone other than the child’s parents to become their legal guardian. For more on that process, see the linked Blog.
At the Law Offices of Mackenzie Sorich, PLLC, we know how important the connection between a grandparent and a grandchild is. We have experience ensuring that grandparents are allowed visitation rights to be in their grandchild’s life. If you are a grandparent seeking access to your grandchild, contact the Law Offices of Mackenzie Sorich, PLLC today! We believe in treating clients with care and respect.