While it is not always discussed, the visitation rights that must be considered in the wake of a divorce can include more than those of the divorcing parents. In some situations, visitation rights for grandparents also become an issue – and, occasionally, litigation ensues as a result.
Grandparents are becoming increasingly involved financially in their grandchildren’s lives, as the recession led to financial difficulties for many young families. According to the AARP, one-quarter of American grandparents spend over $1,000 each year on their grandchildren. Even more surprising, 37 percent of the grandparents surveyed indicated they helped pay for the expenses associated with daily life.
Despite the increased financial involvement of American grandparents, their visitation rights after a divorce have become somewhat diminished nationwide, following a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case. The high court struck down a law from Washington state that permitted any third party, including grandparents, to ask state courts for visitation rights, even if the parents objected.
Although this ruling led many states to abolish their grandparents’ visitation rights laws, Utah grandparents still have certain rights to see their grandchildren after the parents obtain a divorce.
Rights of Utah Grandparents
Utah laws provide that grandparents can file a cause of action to obtain visitation rights when a divorce or “other proceeding involving custody and visitation issues” is pending.
Courts start with the presumption that the decision made by the parents with regard to the grandparent’s rights to visitation is in the child’s best interest. If the grandparent is able to prove certain other factors to rebut the presumption, the court may award them visitation rights, though. Some of those factors include whether the parent is “unfit or incompetent,” or the grandparent “acted as the grandchild’s custodian or caregiver, or otherwise has had a substantial relationship with the grandchild, and the loss or cessation of that relationship is likely to cause harm to the grandchild.”
Determining visitation rights after a divorce is difficult for everyone involved. Consulting with a skilled family law attorney can ensure each party’s voice is heard.
Source: Reuters, “Grandparents, purse strings and divorce,” Temma Ehrenfeld, July 23, 2012.