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Withholding Grandchildren from Grandparents: Everything You’d Need To Know

by Maria L. Searle
Withholding Grandchildren from Grandparents

People assume that when they become grandparents, they’re entitled to be in their grandchildren’s lives and see them whenever they please.

For many, this is a morally valid point. However, no law exists that gives grandparents privileges when it comes to seeing their grandchildren.

This gives parents full autonomy over the care and upbringing of their children. Some even take things to extremes by denying any access between children and their grandparents.

Ultimately, the main thing you have to consider is what’s the most acceptable solution for the child. If it’s in their best interest to keep ties with their grandparents, you need to find a way to make it happen regardless of any disagreements between the grown-ups.

Keep reading to find out more about the complexities of withholding grandchildren from grandparents.

The Reasons

We often think of grandparents as a comforting addition to our children’s lives. Yet, sometimes, certain situations may present themselves that force the parents to keep their children away.

Parents have the primary legal authority over their children’s upbringing and care. This gives them the right to separate the children from their grandparents.

Even though the legal aspect of denying grandparents the right to see their grandchildren varies from state to state, there are a handful of reasons why parents may feel they need to take this precautionary measure. Some of these reasons include:

  • Tensions or conflicts between the parents and grandparents
  • Concerns over the grandparents’ safety or health
  • Disagreements over parenting beliefs, values, or styles may raise concerns over the child’s moral development of  emotional well-being
  • Allegations of neglect or abuse, such as using physical disciple or failing to properly supervise the child
  • Disregarding parents’ rules and safety guidelines
  • Exposing the child to inappropriate language, alcohol, drug use, or other harmful influences

The Repercussions

Withholding grandchildren from their grandparents affects both sides.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), grandparents feel helpless, anxious, and alone when they’re denied seeing their grandchildren. Some even begin to feel angry and resentful.

As for the children, they can’t help but feel confused about why they’re being kept from their grandparents.

They’re also denied the chance to bond with their grandparents and feel the joy and happiness of spending time together. This can lead to long-lasting feelings of abandonment, bitterness, and low self-worth.

They may even hold their parents responsible for coming between them and their grandparents. In turn, this can cause the parents to feel guilty and remorseful for their decision.

The Compromise

More often, having a strained relationship is why the grandparents aren’t given access to their grandchildren and spend time with them.

One of the most effective things grandparents can do to become part of their grandchildren’s lives is to repair the relationship between them and their children. Not only will it allow you to spend more time with them and your grandchildren, but it’ll also help bring closure and peace of mind to you and the whole family.

One way to get the ball rolling is to seek the help of a mediator or social worker. Yet, for this type of remedy to work, both parties need to agree to meet and come to a resolution.

Visitation Rights

Most states have laws that give grandparents the right to seek visitation rights. Yet, these laws are often complicated and work on a case-by-case basis.

Yet, the consensus is that all states require grandparents to prove that their visitation is in their grandchildren’s best interest. They also need to demonstrate that they have, or had at one point, a substantial relationship with the children.

Different Laws for Different States

In some states, grandparents can sue for visitation rights with their grandchildren. This came about thanks to the efforts of all 50 state legislatures back in the 1970s.

These legislations came together and decided to help families reach a compromise by creating some variations on the types of visitation rights afforded to grandparents.

However, each state has different terms that the grandparents need to follow in order to gain access to their grandchildren.

For example, in states like Arizona and Missouri, grandparents can only seek visitation rights if the parents are divorced or separated. Also, if the child’s parent has passed away or the grandchild has had an ongoing relationship with their grandparent for at least 12 months.

Must Be Issued by a Judge

Must Be Issued by a Judge

Visitation rights are a way to ensure that the grandparents continue to be part of the family.

Only a court-appointed judge can issue visitation rights. Plus, the terms of these visits, like where, when, and how, depend on the state and the details of the situation. This means that grandparents can’t guarantee they’ll be given visitation rights.

Then, if they’re given visitation rights, they need to be highly diligent to follow the rules and regulations set by the court.

The Parent’s Role

If visitation rights are approved, the parents can’t do anything to stand in the way of the court’s ruling. They also need to follow the court-mandated rules and regulations.

At no point can the parents prevent their children from seeing their grandparents. Otherwise, the court may decide to have them fined or even worse.

So, it’s in the best interest of everyone involved that all sides work together to build an atmosphere of trust between family members.


1: Why might parents decide to withhold their children from their grandparents?

There could be a variety of reasons, including disagreements over parenting styles, tensions or conflicts between parents and grandparents, concerns about the grandparents’ safety or health, or allegations of neglect or abuse.

The child’s well-being is always the primary consideration.

2: How does withholding grandchildren from grandparents affect both parties?

Grandparents often feel helpless, anxious, and even resentful when they are denied access to their grandchildren.

On the other hand, children can feel confused and abandoned, leading to long-lasting feelings of bitterness and low self-worth.

3: What can grandparents do if they’re denied access to their grandchildren?

Grandparents can work towards repairing the relationship with the parents. Seeking the help of a mediator or social worker can be beneficial.

Additionally, some states have laws allowing grandparents to seek visitation rights, though this typically requires proving that their involvement is in the child’s best interests.

4: What are visitation rights?

Visitation rights, issued by a court-appointed judge, provide a legal framework for grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren. The terms depend on the state and specifics of the situation.

5: What happens if visitation rights are approved?

Once visitation rights are approved, parents must comply with the court’s ruling and cannot prevent their children from seeing their grandparents. Failure to comply could lead to fines or further legal consequences. 

6: What should be the primary concern when considering withholding grandchildren from grandparents?

The primary concern should always be the best interests of the children. Parents need to balance their right to raise their children as they see fit with the emotional and psychological benefits that a relationship with grandparents can provide.

Final Thoughts

In some cases, the parents have compelling reasons for withholding grandchildren from their grandparents. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s done only out of spite and ill will.

Yet, the main thing that should be on everyone’s mind is what’s best for the children. If they’re better off maintaining contact with their grandparents, then the adults need to find a way to make that happen.

Parents need to balance their children’s upbringing and care with their emotional and psychological needs. By taking into account the impact keeping them from their grandparents can have, you can ultimately find a way to provide everyone with the opportunity to heal the rifts and become a close-knit family once again.

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