Grandparents Visitation Law and Legal Definition

The legislature and courts, aware of the importance of the grandparent-grandchild relationship, have implemented procedures by which grandparents can seek visitation with their grandchildren. These laws, however, do not give a grandparent an absolute or unqualified right to visitation. Instead, as in all cases involving child custody and visitation, the primary inquiry is "what is in the best interests of the children." It is the grandparent's burden to show that it is in the best interest of the child for the grandparent to have visitation.

Almost all states currently have some type of "grandparent visitation" statute through which grandparents and sometimes others, such as foster parents and stepparents, can ask a court to grant them the legal right to maintain their relationships with children. But state laws vary greatly when it comes to the important details, such as who can visit and under what circumstances.

Approximately twenty states have "restrictive" visitation statutes, meaning that generally only grandparents can get a court order for visitation -- and only if the child's parents are divorcing or if one or both parents have died. Most states have more permissive visitation laws that allow courts to consider a visitation request even without the death of a parent or the dissolution of the family, so long as visitation would serve the best interests of the child. Some states allow other caretaking adults -- not just grandparents -- to make such a petition.

In Illinois, the grandparent visitation statute was ruled unconstitutional by the state supreme court. The court ruled that the statute infringes on the fundamental right of parents to make child rearing decisions, in violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Therefore, grandparents no longer have the right to petition for visitation in that state. Local laws should be consulted for specific requirements in your area.