In a divorce, do grandparents have legal rights to a grandchild?

They say blood is thicker than water, but when it comes to divorce and matters related to grandparents' rights, this saying doesn't always ring true. In a legal separation or divorce that involves minor-aged children, the primary focus is on the legal child custody and visitation rights of each parent. Guided by the overarching principle of what is considered to be in a child's best interest, family courts attempt to establish custody and visitation agreements between parents. However, unless additional legal action is taken, the rights of grandparents are not readily addressed.

Grandparents play a unique and critical role in the lives of many U.S. children. A large percentage serve as both primary and backup child care providers who cherish and look forward to time spent with a grandchild. However, when a grown child divorces and he or she loses child custody, grandparents' access to a grandchild may be limited.

In Maryland, under the Maryland Grandparent Visitation Statute grandparents are frequently able to obtain formal visitation rights to a grandchild if the court deems the relationship between the grandparents and grandchild to "be in the best interests of the child." However, in cases where one of the child's parents objects to visitation being granted, the family court is unlikely to award grandparent visitation rights.

In cases where grandparents wish to obtain visitation rights to a grandchild, it's often best to attempt to come to an agreement about such matters outside of court. In some cases, however, legal action may be beneficial in helping procure a formal grandparent visitation schedule that is recognized and accepted by both parents.