What rights do grandparents have under Alabama law?

Although grandparents' rights are limited, a court may still grant access

The issue of grandparents' rights is highly contentious since courts and families often have to balance the rights of parents in how they raise their children with the rights of grandparents who want access to their grandchildren. While Alabama has made efforts to enshrine grandparents' rights into law, courts have been reluctant to ensure those rights at the expense of parental rights. Nonetheless, grandparents may still be granted access to their grandchildren through a court order.

Grandparents' rights court case

The state's Grandparent Visitation Act previously put into law the rights of grandparents to visit and maintain contact with their grandchildren. However, a landmark case largely threw out that law, according to Yellowhammer News.

In that case, a financial dispute led to the grandparents being denied access to their grandchildren by the children's parents. The grandparents took their case to court, citing the Grandparent Visitation Act. The case eventually made its way to the Alabama Supreme Court, which ruled that the grandparents did not have visitation rights to their grandchildren. Furthermore, the court ruled that the Grandparent Visitation Act denied the parents' rights to due process and the law was therefore declared unconstitutional. Since the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the state court's decision stood.

Grandparent visitation

Although the Grandparent Visitation Act was declared unconstitutional, grandparents can take comfort in the fact that other statutes do give them visitation rights in some circumstances. According to About Parenting, grandparents may petition for visitation rights if the parents of the children are divorced or deceased, if the grandparents have been denied visitation rights, or if the child was either born outside of marriage or was abandoned by one of the parents.

However, those conditions alone do not guarantee that visitation rights will be granted. The courts will decide whether to grant such rights based on the best interests of the child. Those best interests can include the child's and parents' wishes, the ability of the grandparents to ensure a healthy parent-child relationship, evidence of domestic violence, and the mental and physical wellbeing of both the child and grandparents.

Understanding visitation rights

Because grandparents' visitation rights are far from guaranteed, grandparents looking to ensure they have access to their grandchildren will want experienced legal advice from a qualified family law attorney. Such an attorney can help grandparents understand their legal rights and, depending on the circumstances of each family, put forward a case that shows that a child's best interests are being served by maintaining contact with his or her grandparents.

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