Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Grandparent Rights - What's the Problem?

Grandparent's rights and visitations were gaining some momentum due to the rulings in 2006 in the following states: Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Utah. The courts in those states obviously saw the need to include grandparents in the lives of their grandchildren.

The Supreme Court in 2000, ruling in a case from Washington State greatly curtailed grandparent rights. To answer the question, "What's the problem?" one can easily surmise that it is the court system. States have different laws and different customs with respect to grandparent's rights and visitations. The Supreme Court with any ruling can render all state laws null/ void.

"Everything changed after [the Supreme Court Ruling]," said Barbara Jones, an attorney with the Foundation litigation staff. The ruling increased parents' rights. Since 2000, the following states have ruled that their state statutes are unconstitutional: Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Washington.

Don't give up the ship grandparents, you can still get visitation with your grandchildren under certain conditions. For example, when grandparents have raised their grandchildren for years and then are cut off because the parents' return is a very good reason to press your case with the courts. Death and incarceration are other reasons that grandparents may get courts to aware full custody.

"Grandparent organizations believe grandparents should have rights to petition the court" when it comes to visitation, said Amy Goyer, national coordinator for the Foundation's Grandparenting Program. She believes that "It should be left up to the courts in terms of what is in the best interest of the grandchild."

If you have to go to court, "The burden of proof is firmly on grandparents to show visitation is necessary," says Jeff Atkinson, adjunct professor of law at Chicago's DePaul University. This court perspective places grandparents in conflict with their own children and can cause additional problems for families.

If there is a solution to this problem it lies in mediation. Bringing the parties together with a trained mediator is the first step, after intense research, to resolve the issues. The cost of mediation is an economical strategy that should be tried before a very costly court appearance. Moreover, all parties have to put the child/grandchild first.
To find a mediator in your area, check out the National Association for Community Mediation.

Clarence Grasty
Just another grandparent/PopPop providing information for today's grandparents

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