Extended Families May Make Grandchild Visitations Tough

Knoxville — The United States Supreme Court recently struck down a Washington state law that gave grandparents broad rights to seek visitation with their grandchildren.

A professor with the University of Tennessee child and family studies department said extended families are possibly adding to the difficulty of grandparents getting legal guarantees of seeing their grandchildren.

“I think it has become more of an issue as divorces have increased in our society,” said Dr. Priscilla Blanton. “Relationships with extended families have become more complicated than they were in the past.”

“But it’s still a minority of grandparents that aren’t able to work out a reasonable way to maintain relationships with their grandchildren,” Blanton said.

Dr. Greer Fox, also a child and family studies professor at UT, said it takes a special situation to see grandparents suing for visitation rights.

“The circumstances under which grandparents must seek a court order for access to their grandchildren have to be so extreme,” said Fox, “that one must ask if it’s truly in the child’s best interest to accomodate the visitation.”

The Supreme Court ruling stated that as long as a parent adequately cares for his or her children, there’s usually no reason for the state to get involved.

All 50 states have grandparent-visitation laws but few are as expansive as Washington’s.