“Grandparent estrangement” refers to grandparents being prevented from seeing and maintaining a relationship with their grandchildren. It can happen after a divorce, when the custodial parent blocks their former in-laws from access to the children. It can also happen when the grandparents’ own children don’t want the grandparents in their kids’ lives.
If you’re in this painful situation, it could be worth talking to a family lawyer to discuss what legal options you might have.
For one thing, every state has a “grandparent visitation” law under which grandparents can seek a court order that they be able to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren.
Different states vary regarding the grandparents’ rights in this context. Some only allow grandparents to seek visitation rights if the parents are getting divorced or if one or both parents are deceased. In some of these states, if the divorced parents agree they don’t want their children to see their grandparents, they have the right to keep them away.
Other states allow grandparents to seek visitation even if the parents are married and have denied the grandparents access to their children. In these instances, courts will grant visitation if it’s determined to be in the best interest of the child. Considerations include the emotional well-being of the children, the wishes of the parents, the bond between the children and the grandparents and the preferences of the children, among other things.
Regardless of a state’s individual laws, however, seeking grandparent visitation can be a challenge, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled more than a decade ago that courts must assume parents are acting in their child’s best interest when they refuse grandparents’ requests for visitation. Grandparents must overcome this presumption with evidence.
It’s a good idea to try and work out differences with your grandkids’ parents and see if you can agree on a visitation arrangement without going to court. But if this doesn’t go anywhere, call a family law attorney and see what your next steps should be.