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How the Troxel v. Granville ruling changed grandparents rights

It is important to not overlook the role grandparents can play in the upbringing of a child. Although grandparent visitation rights vary by state, grandparents do have certain constitutional rights, protected by the Troxel v. Granville ruling made by the United States Supreme Court in 2000.

The grandparents of Tommie Granville petitioned for visitation rights with their grandchildren after the mother limited visitations to once per month and holidays. Although the United States Supreme Court ruled that fit parents were able to make their own decisions regarding non-parental visitation rights, the ruling did allow courts to grant visitation if they feel such non-parental visitations are in the best interests of the child. This includes grandparents, caregivers, stepparents and foster parents. At the time, the Supreme Court decision overruled the state's statute regarding the parent's fundamental right to raise their children.

If a parent has a dispute with the grandparents of a child, the issue may be resolved by going through mediation before seeking a court visitation order. A neutral mediator will hear both sides and make a legally binding solution that satisfies both sides of the issue.

If a parent is found to be unfit to care for the child, grandparents have the right to petition for child custody. As is the philosophy in family court, maintaining the best interest of the child is the primary concern, and oftentimes grandparents are found to be the best caregivers for a child who is in an environment of neglect, abuse or in a household with violence and substance or alcohol abuse.

Source: findlaw.com, "Grandparent Visitation Rights", Accessed June 30, 2015

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Joseph J. Porzenski
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