It’s never easy to watch your children go through a divorce. If you’re a grandparent seeking custody of your grandchildren in the wake of a divorce, things can get even more complicated. You may naturally be concerned about your relationship with your grandchildren post-divorce. Once the divorce is finalized, how do you fit into the picture? What are your legal rights as a grandparent? Let’s take a look at the specific visitation and custody rights afforded to grandparents in Oklahoma.
Before you can really know your rights as a grandparent, it’s important to understand how the courts view your grandchildren. Most family courts consider the child’s best interest to be the most crucial deciding factor in custody cases. In that respect, your relationship with your grandchildren is important, but it’s considered secondary to the parent-child relationship.
Only biological or adoptive parents hold constitutional rights to visitation with their children. Unfortunately, the same is not true for grandparents. As a result, grandparents’ rights can vary widely from state to state. In the state of Oklahoma, your visitation privileges cannot conflict with a parent’s custodial rights, but you may be able to pursue them in court under specific circumstances.
Oklahoma law currently allows for court-ordered grandparent visitation rights in the presence of three specific factors. For one, your visitation must complement the child’s best interests. Second, the grandchild’s parents must be unfit in some way, or the grandchild would be harmed without grandparent visitation. The third factor involves a dissolution of the child’s nuclear family unit, which can happen in scenarios like the following:
- The parents have divorced and your relationship with the child predates the divorce.
- The grandchild’s parent is deceased and your relationship with the child predates the parent’s death.
- Someone other than a parent has legal custody of the grandchild.
- One parent deserted the other parent for at least 1 year, and you share a strong bond with the grandchild.
You must demonstrate all three elements to receive court-ordered visitation rights. The third element can come in many forms, but generally you must have a longstanding relationship with the child and a good reason to stand in for one of the parents. A parent must also be deemed unfit by the court.
In terms of the child’s best interest, judges will consider a wide range of factors. They may ask questions like the following:
- Is your relationship important to the grandchild, and what does he or she prefer?
- What is the nature of your relationship?
- Who else lives with you and frequently visits your home?
- How is your mental and physical health?
- What is the child’s current home environment?
- What about your motivations and moral character?
If you wish to fight for your custody and visitation rights as a grandparent, you should only proceed with strong legal backing. The family attorneys at Bedlam Law can help you build a case and assertively argue for your visitation rights. Give us a call to discuss your situation. We hope to be your trusted partners in trying times.