What Rights do Grandparents have in a Divorce?
When a couple divorces, it can put serious limits on the contact children have with family members. In the case of grandparents, the issues can get particularly tricky. If the custodial parent is not interested in allowing a former spouse’s parents the opportunity to interact with the children, does it mean the end of the relationship? Issues like this can become more complicated than one might imagine, and finding a resolution that satisfies all involved parties may require the aid of a knowledgeable family law attorney.
If there are Objections to Grandparent Visitation
If one or both parents object to grandparent visitation, the courts tend to honor the rights and wishes of parents over the desires of grandparents or other non-parents. This can be devastating to grandparents, who face the daunting task of convincing a judge that visitation is critical to the well being of the children. Every situation is different, of course, and careful planning and thought must be employed in the preparation of an argument for grandparent visitation. Under limited circumstances, the court may agree to grant grandparent visitation requests:
- In cases where parental fitness is in question, a bond exists between the children and their grandparents due to a preexisting relationship, and it is clear that the best interests of the child would be served through visitation; or
- In cases where there are exceptional circumstances wherein such visitation will benefit a child’s welfare.
As distressing as it may be to grandparents, Maryland courts tend to defend the constitutional rights of parents to make decisions as to who has permission to visit their own children, given the parents are deemed fit. In SHERRI LUCKHARDT, ET AL. v. SHARON COLEMAN, ET AL. the Court of Special Appeals ordered that grandparents were not entitled to court-ordered visitation, despite having a previously close relationship and having the ability to provide a level of stability not found in the parents’ homes.
In that case, the children’s mother was an alleged drug user who moved around frequently, and their father was bipolar, and reportedly abused the children physically, mentally and emotionally. The court appointed a custody evaluator, who recommended grandparent visitation based on the circumstances. The court did so, but the children’s mother appealed the ruling based on a parent’s fundamental Constitutional right to make decisions about their own children. She argued that third party visitation can only be ordered if parents are deemed to be unfit, which had not occurred in this situation.
Fighting for your Grandchildren
Maryland courts have had to weigh the Constitutional rights of parents against Maryland’s grandparent visitation statutes over the years. While the statute allows the court to grant grandparent visitation, arguments in favor of parental rights have had significant impact on case outcomes. If you have been estranged from your grandchildren and are seeking visitation, you will find a compassionate, yet aggressive legal team at the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes, LLC, in Baltimore. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.