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Grandparents’ rights are possible but not always clear-cut

The bond between grandchild and grandparent can be really special. Sometimes, grandparents even care for grandchildren in a way that is more parental. They may financially support them, care for their day-to-day needs and even discipline, when necessary. However, even if a grandparent is caring for a child and acting like a parent, they may not have any legal rights.

This can be problematic for some grandparents in situations where the child’s parents have barred access to the child or made it nearly impossible for the grandparent to see their grandchild. In this situation, many grandparents wonder if they have any rights. The short answer is, maybe. When there is only one legal parent or when one parent has died, Massachusetts has certain laws pertaining to this situation.

Parental rights is a sub-sect of family law and is thus governed by the family law court. If a grandparent is serious about seeking guardianship or about becoming a potential legal guardian, it is something that can be decided in family law court. Technically, guardianship is a process in which a grandparent assumes duties that a legal parent would. However, it does not necessarily cancel out a parent’s legal rights. It’s possible for them to coincide.

At the end of the day, a grandparent may want time with a grandchild or they may want to oversee the child’s day-to-day care in much the same way that a parent would. Regardless of the specific goals a grandparent may have, it’s important to understand the legal options. If you are unsure what your options may be, it may be in your best interests to get clarification by speaking with a family law attorney. Grandparent and grandchild relationships are special and should be cherished.

Source:, “Do Grandparents Have Any Legal Rights Regarding Grandchildren? It’s Complicated,” Alana Romain, January 9, 2017