Sunday, September 13, 2015, was National Grandparents Day. For many of us, our grandparents were a huge influence in our lives, especially when we were children. Fortunately, my parents and my grandparents were usually on the same page, which was important because I had two sets of very involved grandparents. However, what happens when parents and grandparents are not on the same page? What happens when the grandparents are the ones raising the child? Or if one parent dies and the other parent does not want the deceased’s parents involved in the child’s life?
The U.S. Supreme Court has provided significant guidance in this area, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment protects against government interference with a fit parent’s fundamental right to parent his or her child. Essentially, what this means is that parents can decide what “third parties” are allowed into their children’s lives. Just because you are a grandparent does not necessarily mean you have unfettered access to your grandchildren—not if there is a fit parent electing to block that access.
In Colorado, in order for a grandparent to obtain visitation rights, generally the grandparent must establish according to a significant burden of proof that a parent’s determination to prevent grandparent visitation is not in the child’s best interests, or that the parent is unfit to make the visitation determination. But a fit parent’s decision about his or her child’s best interests is given a “special weight” by the Court.
Regardless of the law, it may be simple common sense to recognize that it can be insulting to grandparents—the parents of the parents—to be asked to jump through these hoops. Yet the law is intended to protect fundamental Constitutional rights, not to denigrate the often imperative and integral role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives. There are steps families can take to secure these rights, and it is a discussion that, while perhaps awkward, might be worth having.
The information in this post is not legal advice—it is only legal information. To obtain legal advice by hiring the attorneys of Broxterman Alicks McFarlane PC as your counsel, please contact the firm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-331-6432.