Many people would say that being a grandparent is better than being a parent. You get to spoil the kids and then send them home to their parents. This arrangement often goes well while the parents are either happily married or happily living together. Problems arise when the status of the parents' relationship changes.
What if the parents are divorcing or separating (if unmarried)? What can you do if the custodial parent won't allow you to see your grandkids?
You may be asking this question right now. The issue of custody is not yet resolved between the parents, and you want to know if you will get the chance to remain involved in the children's lives after the divorce or separation (if the parents are unmarried). Perhaps you want a guarantee that you can see your grandkids rather than relying on the kindness of the other parent who may decide to cut off contact with the relatives of the other parent.
Do you even have the right to visitation?
In Alaska, you can petition for grandparents' visitation rights with the court. First, you must show the following to the court:
- You have had, or have tried to have, continuous contact with your grandchildren prior to the divorce.
- The parent's attempts to cut off contact between you and your grandchildren harm them in some manner.
- You having visitation rights serve the best interests of your grandchildren.
The other thing that matters is whether there is an open custody case or an existing order. The procedure will vary, depending on the circumstances. The process may require additional steps in the absence of an active custody case.
What to do in an active custody case
If the parents are involved in an active custody case, you may request that the court allow you to join it in order to determine visitation rights. Once you join an active case, the court may determine your visitation rights alongside the other custody issues between the parents. You can only request visitation if the court allows you to join the case, but that does not mean that you can't file the paperwork all at once. Just be aware that the court makes these decisions separately.
Custody matters can be complex enough when they are between the two biological or adoptive parents of the children. Because you are a grandparent, your case may be even more of a challenge. It may be beneficial to discuss the situation and your desires for visitation with someone experienced in family law matters such as this.