A leading family attorney, Stephen Kolodny has earned extensive recognition for his work in the field, including being named one of the top 10 divorce lawyers in the United States by Town & Country and Worth magazines. A founding Partner at Kolodny & Anteau, Stephen Kolodny advises clients on a wide range of areas within matrimonial and family law. In the following article, Mr. Kolodny delves into the area of grandparents’ rights.
In the last 40 years, states around the country have changed laws to reflect greater rights for grandparents in the realms of custody and visitation. Though some federal laws might affect the rights of grandparents in child-custody cases, such issues are primarily handled at the state level.
In cases where custody is being determined, such as a divorce, an instance of child abuse, or when a child has been orphaned, grandparents might qualify for court-granted visitation or custody, depending on the circumstances. Family courts generally proceed with the best interests of the child in mind. In some states, the factors determining best interest are set out explicitly, while in others, the courts have more leeway to decide what should contribute to the decision. Some commonly considered factors include the physical and emotional needs of the child, the safety of the child, the wishes of the parents and grandparents, the strength of the relationship between the child and grandparents, and the wishes of the child.
Most states do allow grandparents to seek visitation even if the parents are both alive or still married, though some restrict court-ordered visitation to instances of divorce or parent death. The rules about grandparent visitation and custody were designed to allow grandparents to stay connected with their grandchildren when the court deems such a relationship to be positive.