TJC ESQ is now part of Burns & Levinson

Do grandparents have legal rights to their grandchildren?

| Jun 26, 2020 | Family Law

Divorce or other familial issues can create dissent amongst immediate family members. No matter their involvement, though, that animosity often affects the extended family, including grandparents. However, a resulting disconnection between grandparents and grandchildren can take away an important relationship.

The benefit of grandparents

A study from the University of Oxford found that the involvement of grandparents in a child’s upbringing has positive effects on their lives. Their study reports that grandmothers are often associated with the nurturing aspect of a relationship, while grandfathers provide involvement and mentoring. The results point to the fact that grandparent-grandchild relationships can have a big impact on the wellbeing of a child.

The rights of grandparents

Rhode Island law 15-5-24.3 addresses the visitation rights of grandparents. Visitation may be granted by the courts if it is in the best interest of the child and if the grandparent is fit for visitation, has repeatedly tried to visit the grandchild, court-ordered visitation is necessary and any refusal for visitation by the parents is unreasonable. This means that the courts may grant visitation to grandparents.

It is also possible that courts may grant guardianship or custody to grandparents. For example, grandparents may ask the courts for custody if both parents are unfit to care for the child.

Parents are typically the first eligible party to have rights to a child. However, that does not always mean that they should be. If a grandparent-grandchild relationship is cut off unreasonably or if it would be in the child’s best interest for the grandparent to have custody, they may pursue such rights through legal action.


Sad Child
American Association For Justice
Pound Civil Justice Institute Member Fellow
NewsWeek Leaders in Showcase Family Law 2011
Super Lawyers Timothy J. Conlon Selected in 2020
AV Preeminent
The Best Lawyers In America