When the parents of your grandchildren have a troubled relationship, you will, of course, be concerned about your child, but you should also be concerned about the possibility of losing contact with your grandchildren. In the event of a divorce or other broken relationship, you may have to resort to mediation or even a lawsuit to secure your grandparents' visitation rights. Since the Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, the grandparents have had the burden of proving that visitation with them is in the "best interest of the child." One way to prove this is by documenting an extensive existing relationship with grandchildren. Although many grandparents have such a relationship, many have not documented it. Here's what you should do to prepare.
Save everything. Designate a folder or box to hold your documentation. Don't spend a lot of time organizing your information. Chances are that you won't ever need it, but you will have it if you do.
Think ahead. Have you served in a parental relationship to your grandchildren? Have they lived with you? Have you provided child care on a regular basis? If so, you need to think of persons who are acquainted with those circumstances. Think about school personnel, medical personnel, neighbors and other who observed you filling the parental role for your grandchildren. You might make some notes of names and phone numbers. There is no need to obtain other documentation at this time.
If you did not serve as a part-time or full-time parent to your grandchildren, but you still had a close relationship with them, gather documentation of that relationship. Consider the following types of evidence:
- Photographs of you and your grandchildren
- Ticket stubs or receipts for events you attended together
- Receipts for restaurant meals
- Receipts for items you bought for grandchildren, especially for necessary items such as clothing
- Copies of emails exchanged with grandchildren, or emails exchanged with parents about the grandchildren
- Records of phone calls.
The majority of grandparents who prepare to preserve their visitation rights never find themselves involved in mediation or a lawsuit. But if you should find yourself in one of those situations, you will need some general information about visitation rights and specific information about your state. Also, you could be very happy that you took precautions to document your relationship with your grandchildren in order to protect your rights of visitation.