In many families throughout Minnesota, grandparents are playing a major role in providing for their grandchildren. According to the AARP, 25 percent of grandparents polled said they spent over $1,000 a year on their grandkids. About 37 percent said they regularly contribute money to help cover the daily cost of living.
This is all well and good as long as the family is intact. The children are happy to receive new shoes each fall and sleep well at night knowing that grandma and grandpa are looking after their college funds. The parents are grateful for the support, and the grandparents are thrilled to be a part of their grandkids’ lives.
Divorce, however, makes matters complicated. Despite their crucial contributions, more grandparents are finding themselves on the wrong end of the gavel when it comes to visitation rights.
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Washington state law that permitted courts to order visitation rights for grandparents. Since then, many states have followed suit, removing such laws from their books and replacing them with nothing. As a result, determining the details of visitation and custody rights for grandparents has become difficult. Often, the grandparents lose out.
In one well-known case, a divorced man’s mother allowed her son and his daughter, of whom he had sole custody, to live with her rent-free for five months in the days just after the son’s divorce. Three years later, the man began refusing to let his mother spend any time with her granddaughter. The slighted grandmother has spent over $100,000 in legal fees, and the dispute is still unresolved.
Although this case is not necessarily typical, the mixture of divorce, grandparents, and financial dependence is often ugly. According to one family lawyer, needy parents will often use their children as bait, offering time with the grandkids in exchange for a new car, an updated kitchen or a $1,000 check.
If you would like to know more about grandparents’ rights, you may want to visit our Minneapolis child custody page. Our firm helps grandparents and parents in matters of child custody and visitation.
Source: Reuters, “Grandparents, purse strings and divorce,” Temma Ehrenfeld, July 23, 2012.