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Should grandparents be involved in child custody arrangements?

Grandparents' rights are a growing concern throughout Minnesota and other states. Courts in various American jurisdictions are attempting to sort out grandparents' roles in child custody proceedings and arrangements. Now, one state is on the verge of passing a bill that would allow grandparents to petition the courts for visitation after a divorce or extramarital birth.

The bill, introduced in Alabama, would allow grandparents to seek custody rights under certain circumstances. A previous Alabama law that allowed grandparents to receive visitation rights was struck down by that state's high court after justices decided that such regulations interfered with parents' rights to make family decisions. Now, the new mandate would grant specific rights to grandparents who can prove that they already have a presence in the child's life. Further, visitation must be in the best interests of the child.

To meet the qualifications of this bill, the grandparent must prove one of several options. Grandparents that have housed the child for a period of six months or longer, or have served as a caregiver for that child for a similar amount of time, may be eligible for rights. Grandparents who provide financial support or who frequently interact with their grandchildren may also qualify.

Opponents of the measure say that it would only introduce more complications into an already contentious environment for parents' legal rights. Parents who have been deemed fit should have the right to raise their children in the way they prefer, even if those methods differ from grandparents' ideas. Grandparents who have been kept from their young relatives disagree, arguing that they deserve to see their grandchildren if they so desire.

Grandparents who believe they have been subject to unfair restrictions on visitation may benefit from consulting a family attorney. These professionals may help older relatives learn more about this type of custody issue. Grandparents' rights are evolving rapidly in many jurisdictions, with lawmakers in Minnesota and other states working to protect this often overlooked population.

Source: TimesDaily, "Grandparents rights bill moves forward" Mary Sell, Mar. 19, 2014

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