There is nothing quite as special as the bond between a grandparent and grandchild. While people often say grandparenting is all the fun with none of the work, the truth is that the love for a grandchild is often deeper, and distinct, from the love for one’s child. Some have even described it as love squared.
So what happens when death or divorce suddenly changes your access to your grandchild? If a child is born out of wedlock, can you be assured of seeing the child?
The answer is yes
Last year, the Alabama legislature codified a new law establishing visitation rights for grandparents. While the legislature believes parents have the right to determine how they raise their child, it is also interested in ensuring that family ties and connections remain intact. To that end, the new law has some specific guidelines.
What gives you standing?
Before bringing a court case, an individual must establish “standing.” In essence, you must have a legal reason for doing so. In this instance, the law permits a grandparent to file if one of the following applies:
- The parents are no longer together due to death, divorce or a legal separation;
- The grandchild was born out of wedlock, and, in the case of paternal grandparents, paternity has been established;
- The parent’s rights have been terminated, but a relative or stepparent has adopted the child.
But standing is not enough. What else must you show in order for the court to grant you visitation with your grandchild?
What is best for the child?
Since the law presumes a parent is capable of making appropriate child-rearing decisions, you must prove to the court that there is some reason for departing from the parent’s wishes. Accordingly, you must demonstrate that you have a “significant and viable” relationship with your grandchild. You can accomplish this if:
- The child currently lives, or previously lived, with you--without the parent--for a period of at least six months;
- You have provided your grandchild’s daycare for at least six months;
- You have had regular contact with your grandchild for at least one year and can show that loss of contact will adversely affect the child.
Am I guaranteed visitation?
The law does not allow an uninvolved grandparent to seek visitation. In a case where there is no established contact, the court must find that no meaningful relationship exists and deny the petition.
Not every petition will result in grandparent visitation, and a judge has wide discretion in making a ruling. However, if you love and miss your grandchildren, the effort can be priceless.