Good times or bad, grandparents stand ready to lend a helping hand to their grandchildren. And when tragedy strikes, grandparents frequently assume the role of parent and tackle all of the responsibilities associated with raising a child.
The importance of grandparents is unmistakable. They often provide financial, educational, and emotional stability for many children. But the rights that are guaranteed to parents don’t extend to the grandparents. For many, under certain circumstances, this means that ties to their grandchildren may be permanently severed.
This is exactly what happened in the case In the Matter of D.C. and D.C., which limited grandparents’ custody rights in Colorado. When the maternal grandparent and step-grandparent on the mother’s side tried to obtain visitation rights, they were denied because they didn’t have a vested interest in the case (referred to as standing), according to the court. They appealed the decision through the Colorado Appellate Court and were denied.
If a previous court action had existed involving child custody or allocation of parental rights, the grandparents would have then had limited standing. In this case, however, since the children’s father abandoned them and hadn’t been married to their mother, there was no previous court action involved.
Grandparents aren’t considered as part of the legal family unit. And their lack of standing was established in the Supreme Court case of Troxel vs Granville. In this case, the court overturned a Washington state law that gave visitations rights to the grandparents over the objection of the mother. The Court ruled that this violated the mother’s constitutional right to make decisions that were in the best interests of her children.
Colorado does offer grandparents standing in certain circumstances without the court’s previous intervention. When the parent (on the grandparents’ side) of the child dies or when someone other than the parents obtain custody, the grandparents may be able to take legal custody.
Additionally, grandparents who currently care for a grandchild may have an easier time acquiring parental responsibility. To meet the court’s criteria, a grandparent would need to have custody of the child for a period of at least six months.
If you’re needing to forms regarding grandparent visitation, visit the Colorado Judicial Branch. To get more information about your rights as a grandparent, contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today. Your initial consultation is free.
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