The love you feel for your grandchildren and the special support that you provide them can be very valuable to them, especially during times of emotional and social change. If your grandchild has recently gone through the divorce of their parents or the termination of their parents’ rights due to abuse, neglect or addiction, your relationship may become even more important, as they need someone they can rely on and relate to while going through such a difficult time.
Unfortunately, if you don’t have a positive relationship with your child’s ex or if your grandchildren wind up in foster placement or state custody, you might not have access to them. They could probably benefit from your presence and support during such a difficult time, but you may have to take extra steps if you can’t reach an informal agreement for continued visitation with your grandchildren.
Although many states only recognize biological or adoptive parents when it comes to custody or visitation issues, Oregon recognizes third-party individuals who may develop a parent-child relationship or strong emotional bond as someone who plays an important role in the life of a child. Anyone whose continued presence in the life of a child will be in that child’s best interest can probably pursue either visitation or even shared custody depending on their family’s circumstances.
You need to demonstrate that your presence will benefit the child
There are many kinds of evidence, ranging from testimony and pictures to letters from neighbors, teachers and mental health professionals, that can help substantiate the importance of your relationship with your grandchild.
Maybe you have a text chain going back years showing how your teenage grandchild turns to you for advice about everything. Perhaps you have allowed your grandchildren to live with you, which means you have stepped into a parental role for them. Maybe you just make a point of visiting with your grandchildren every week, which is an event that both you and they look forward to.
If you can demonstrate to the courts that you have an established relationship, a real emotional bond and a focus on what will benefit your grandchild, it may be possible to seek either custody rights or at least court-ordered visitation that will protect your relationship with your grandchildren when your access to them becomes threatened due to a divorce, break up or termination of parental rights.