Being a grandparent can be a wonderful experience, but if you end up in the middle of a divorce between your child and his or her spouse, it can put your rights as a grandparent at risk. You may end up in a situation where your grandchildren’s parent or parents no longer wish to allow you to see them. If even one parent objects, you may have trouble carrying on a relationship with your grandchildren.
The law does give you the right to fight for legal visitation. According to the Washington State Legislature, the law allows you to seek grandparent’s rights through the court in a situation where the child’s parents are no longer together.
The court requires you to have an established relationship with the child. You need to have had this substantial and meaningful relationship for at least two years, or if the child is under the age of two, for at least half of the child’s life.
You must also show that the child will suffer in some way if the court does not allow you to continue having visitation with him or her. The court will also want to see the child express a desire to continue a relationship with you.
The court typically sides with parents when it comes to custody matters. The assumption is that if a parent (who the court did not otherwise declare unfit) makes the decision to not allow a relationship between you and his or her children, then that parent has a valid reason for doing so. However, the court also realizes that sometimes children end up as weapons in a divorce situation, so if you can prove you have a valid reason, the court will consider awarding you visitation rights.
To get grandparent’s rights, you need to petition the court. The court will then decide your case as it would any custody case by considering what is in the child’s interests. If the court grants you rights, you only have visitation rights. You do not have parental-like rights.