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Grandparents face challenges when seeking visitation rights

It is only natural for Florida grandparents to want to see their grandchildren. But in some cases, their children may impose limits on the number of visits or prohibit them entirely. In response, some grandparents have initiated family law litigation in an attempt to earn visitation rights. Depending on the case, some grandparents have won concessions from the court: They may attend their grandchildren's school-related activities, for example, and may be given the right to periodic visits outside of those activities.

But grandparents face some legal obstacles. A Supreme Court ruling over a decade ago invalidated one state's grandparent-friendly visitation law, and a number of states followed suit by repealing similar laws that they had on their books. In addition, judges will base their determinations in grandparents' rights cases on what they consider to be in the grandchild's best interests.

In some families, however, grandparents are becoming more important than ever to their grandchildren. The poor economy has left some divorced parents seeking additional financial help from their own parents. While grandparents may traditionally have provided gifts and special items for their grandchildren, a recent survey revealed that 37 percent of grandparents are now paying for a portion of their everyday living expenses.

Although grandparents may provide a good deal of financial support for their grandchildren, this is unlikely to play a major role in a subsequent visitation case, however. Most judges will not reach a decision in a grandparents' rights case by adding up how much money grandparents have contributed to the grandchildren's expenses. Because this can be a complex area of the law, grandparents may want to seek out professional assistance when seeking visitation rights.

Source: Reuters, "Grandparents, purse strings and divorce," Temma Ehrenfeld, July 23, 2012.

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