Grandparents play an important part in the lives of their grandchildren. In certain family situations, grandparents need to use the legal system to secure their rights and to provide for their grandchildren’s needs.
For many children, grandparents are the adults in their lives who perform the routine activities typically associated with traditional parents. They provide for the child’s needs, make important decisions, and offer the stability and guidance children need.
In some situations, grandparents exercise these roles with the cooperation and consent of the child’s parents, and no legal intervention is needed. Other times, such as in a divorce, grandparents who were once important or even central in their grandchildren’s lives are considered part of the spouse being divorced, and get pushed away from the children. The effect of this on the children and the grandparents can be devastating.
New Hampshire’s Parenting Rights and Responsibilities law makes special provisions for Grandparents Rights. The law enables grandparents to ask a court to order specific rights to spend time with their grandchildren. Beyond that which the statute provides, New Hampshire case law recognizes grandparents also receiving greater rights and responsibilities for their grandchildren. If you do not believe the legal standards for grandparent cases to be a “legal minefield” read the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s 2005 opinion In the Matter of R.A. and J.M. , and then be sure to contact us. To secure these rights beyond what the parents will simply agree to, grandparents must either bring their own case or intervene as parties in the parenting case ongoing between the parents. The law requires that grandparents demonstrate strong evidence of their role in the child’s life and that the grandparent’s role be consistent with the relationship of the parent and child.
“Grandparents sometimes need to use the legal system to secure their rights.”
Other situations arise where the parents are unable to parent a child adequately alone. In these situations, grandparents often seek guardianship of their grandchildren. Guardianship provides an order of the court granting the grandparent specific rights and responsibilities either in conjunction with the parents or in substitution of the parents. Guardianship permits a grandparent to place the child on their family health insurance coverage. Parents can be granted rights under the guardianship order to see their children if that is conducive to the child’s best interest. Guardianships are permanent orders, though they can be modified or dissolved at any time upon a showing that the parent is ready and able to resume appropriate parental responsibility.
Grandparents are also sought out in child abuse or neglect cases initiated by the State’s Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). This child protection agency is responsible for intervening in serious situations of violence against children, child endangerment, drug or alcohol abuse, or failure to provide basic needs of a child. DCYF typically takes legal custody of a child in an abuse or neglect case, and then seeks out an appropriate placement for the child. Kinship placements with family members are the preferred placement for children ahead of more distant foster family placements. Grandparents are often the kinship placement of choice because of their maturity and closeness with the child.
If you are a grandparent who needs assistance to assert your place in your grandchild’s life, contact us.