Case Example: After the death of the father, the mother had custody of the child. She allowed the grandparents to visit their grandchild (In re the Mat- ter of Grandparental Visitation of C. G. F., 1992; Mi- chaels, 1993). Visitations slowly decreased until the mother remarried. After her marriage, the mother refused to allow visits. Not long after the marriage, the stepfather filed for adoption. The grandparents filed for visitation rights. The trial court granted visitation, stating it was in the child’s best interest. Nevertheless, grandparent visitation rights would terminate after an adoption. After the adoption of the child, the grandparents opposed the loss of their visitation rights.
The Court of Appeals backed up the trial court’s decision to stop the visitation after the adoption. The Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. The paternal grandparents had a lawful right to visitation because the father contin- ued to hold his parental rights, even in death. Since the father continued to hold his parental rights,the grandparents earned their rights through their son.
The judges supported the best interest of the grandchild, allowing the child to continue his or her relationship with the grandparents (Hender- son, 2005; Michaels, 1993). If, however, the par- ent of the child loses his or her parental rights, then grandparents likewise lose their legal link to the child (Balzer, 1994; Bostock, 1994; Gill- man, 1995; Hartfield, 1996; Walther, 1997).
Family Disruption: Divorce, death of a parent,
parental unfitness, completion of military duty, and abandonment are forms of family disruption. These situations may provide an opportunity for grand- parents to seek visitation with their grandchild (Henderson & Moran, 2001).
Permissive Grandparent Visitation Laws
Permissive laws focus on continuing strong re- lationships between grandparents and grandchild. These laws also focus on promoting the best inter- ests of the child (Balzer, 1994; Bohl, 1996; Hartfield, 1996; Jackson, 1994). Strong relationships may mean a grandchild who lives with a grandparent for an extended period. It also may mean grandparents who act like a parent to their grandchild (Balzer, 1994; Bostock, 1994; Walther, 1997). Sometimes it refers to grandparents who financially provide for their grandchildren. Other times, laws allow judges to consider grandparents who have a deep concern for their grandchildren. Some laws allow judges to consider grandparents who have a significant rela- tionship with their grandchild.
Grandparent visitation laws do not automati- cally give grandparents the right to file a visita- tion request. Grandparents must have a legal right to go before a judge, meaning they must have legal standing (Black, Nolan, & Nolan-Haley, 1991). Some states, like Oklahoma, allow grandparents to file for visitation rights under certain circumstances, such as divorce, death of parent, and parental unfitness.