Child custody issues affect entire families–and that includes grandparents. Many grandparents hear that their child is getting a divorce and they have a lot of questions about how to help and if they’ll get to keep seeing their grandchildren.
Some grandparents even find it necessary to get involved in the proceedings and seek custody. Here are some questions that grandparents frequently ask, and their answers.
- What is the best way to support my child during divorce and custody proceedings? This question has as many answers as there are custody situations. No custody case is the same, and different people will need different help. The basic help that a grandparent can provide is emotional support. A grandparent can listen to their children, and the grandchildren, without judgment. They can also offer feedback to the parent when requested. Some parents may need more help with the children during this time, and grandparents can step in and help babysit. They can also provide financial help if the resources are available to them. If a grandparent really wants to know, they can simply ask their child what the child wants them to do.
- Do grandparents have legal visitation rights to their grandchildren? This varied according to the state where you live, but generally, a grandparent doesn’t have legal visitation. This changes if the grandparents have been awarded custody, or there are extenuating circumstances in the court. However, the best way for most grandparents to continue seeing their grandchildren is to maintain a relationship with the parents. Grandparents can plan on their child having some visitation time, and they can see the grandchildren then. If it’s appropriate, grandparents can continue a relationship with the other parent and offer to babysit or watch the children to see them more.
- How does a grandparent talk about the divorce and custody issues with the grandchildren? This is a hard question for some grandparents, and it depends on the children. Grandparents should leave most of the explaining to the parents, and offer only neutral comments if the children ask. Grandparents should not speak negatively of either parent in the presence of the children. If a child has questions, the grandparent should give a short explanation and inform the parent about it. Grandparents can listen to their grandchildren and ask them questions to find out how they’re handling things. The important thing is for children to feel loved and supported.
- Can grandparents get legal custody of their grandchildren? Grandparents can get custody of the children if neither parent is considered capable by the courts. In order for this to happen, the grandparent must have a history of taking care of the children in the parent’s absence. Courts prefer to grant parental custody, but if the grandparent can make a compelling case based on history and other circumstances that the child will do best with them, the courts can give them custody.
- What is guardianship and how does it differ from custody? Many grandparents seek guardianship rather than custody because it is easier. Guardianship means that the grandparents can make legal decisions for their grandchildren and can fulfill many parental roles. This can happen if a parent and grandchildren move in with their grandparents. Both will have the responsibility of the children.