A divorce can often affect more than just the parents and their children. Grandparents and extended family are sometimes left out in the cold and are at risk of losing their contact with the children, particularly when one parent ends up with sole custody. And for those grandparents who have been cut off from their grandchildren, many wonder if the law might offer them visitation rights to require a reluctant parent to share the children. One case playing out in Massachusetts and Rhode Island brings the issue into focus.
The grandparents, residents of Springfield, Massachusetts, have not seen their 4-year-old granddaughter since two days before her mother (the grandparents' daughter) was murdered in March 2010. The surviving spouse moved to Narragansett, Rhode Island, following the murder. Though the grandparents have sent cards to their granddaughter, the surviving spouse returned them. In May the grandparents filed a petition seeking visitation rights with the girl. Lawyers for the surviving spouse argued in court papers that the visitation was "not in the girl's best interests."
However, the whole case got turned on its ear on Oct. 20 when the surviving spouse was arrested and charged with the murder of her wife. Police now say, after a 15-month investigation, that the woman strangled her wife.
While it remains to be seen what will come of the criminal proceedings, they may give rise to a further argument on behalf of the grandparents for visitation rights. In this case, an attorney can advocate that visiting with the grandparents is one thing that is truly in the young girl's best interests.
Source: Boston,com, "Kin of slain Mass woman sought visitation rights," Oct. 21, 2011