Understanding the Role of Grandparents in Divorced & Separated Families

Grandparents and Divorce

When a divorce or a separation happens, it can sometimes be incredibly difficult to navigate – especially when children are involved. Other family members that maintain a close relationship with the children, such as grandparents, will likely feel the effects of a divorce or separation as well. Because of this, it’s important to have a good understanding of the role grandparents play when a divorce or separation occurs.

Grandparents in Divorced Families

The process of a divorce or separation can be incredibly trying on the family and anyone close to them. Grandparents are often prone to experiencing the emotional toll of the separation as they watch and support their adult child and grandchildren through this transitional period. While grandparents will want to be there to offer their loved ones support, it’s important they navigate their role with care during this process. Some of the ways that grandparents can best help to be there for the family when a divorce or separation happens include:

Continue the Relationship With Grandchildren

Grandparents provide a source of comfort, love, and sense of security for many grandchildren. Because of this, it’s important that grandparents continue their relationships with the grandchildren during a divorce, as it can be a source of reassurance during a difficult transition.

When around the grandchildren, it’s best to keep things as normal as possible. If a grandparent has regular visits, it’s important to keep the schedule as consistent as possible and/or to stay connected through phone or video calls. It’s important to note that children may lash out or feel angry, hurt, confused, or unheard during a divorce. In these situations, it’s important that as many supportive people are allowed to be there for the children, including grandparents. Let your minor children know that whatever they may be feeling is normal and that it’s ok for them to feel that way. Reassuring the grandchildren and validating their feelings will help them to understand they are not alone.

Stay Neutral

It can be easy for a grandparent to feel a stronger alliance to his or her own adult child during a divorce or separation. Even if the grandparent has negative feelings toward the other parent, it’s best to stay neutral, especially when around the grandchildren.

In these situations, grandparents should not interfere with the grandchild’s feelings towards either parent. When speaking about the divorce or another parent, the conversation should be kept light, positive, or at least neutral. Avoid prying the grandchildren for information about what they are observing at home. Trying to pit the grandchildren against a parent can only add to their confusion and hurt. However, it’s important to ensure they are healthy and safe within both homes, regardless. In the event a grandparent notices something concerning, they should bring it to the attention of one or both parents first and only consider escalating the concern if a grandchild is believed to be in danger.

Be Flexible and Understanding

After a divorce or separation, it’s likely that things like birthdays and holidays won’t be quite the same as they once were. While a grandparent may have always spent birthdays or certain holidays with their grandchildren, the parents’ separation will change these arrangements moving forward. While this is sometimes a sad realization, it’s most important that grandparents be flexible and understanding of the situation. Accepting the fact that one’s grandchildren may be spending time with other family over a specific holiday or special time is difficult, but focusing on building new traditions and making the times spent together extra special can create a smoother adjustment.

Respect the Agreements of Both Parents

While going through a divorce or separation can be a major transitional period, grandparents should respect the wishes of both parents when it comes to their children. For instance, if they have to finish their homework before bed or are scheduled for a sports practice at a certain time, the grandparent should honor these arrangements. Under no circumstances should the grandparent state or imply that the rules set by a parent are more or less important than those of the other parent. No matter how a grandparent may feel personally about a parent, it’s imperative that the ground rules set by their children are respected and maintained.

Grandparent Rights in Texas

While a grandparent’s relationship with their grandchildren is incredibly special, sometimes these bonds can be endangered in the event of a tumultuous divorce, when Child Protective Services (CPS) is involved, or if a stepparent adopts a child. Because of this, in Texas (as well as many other states) there are several laws in place that protect the grandparents’ right to see their grandchildren.

In Texas, a grandparent can request visitation privileges under the following circumstances:

  • The parent or parents have neglected or abused the grandchild
  • The parent has died, been found incompetent, or has been in jail or prison for at least three months before filing the petition
  • The parent-child relationship has been terminated by a court order
  • The child has already lived with the grandparent for six or more months

In the event someone other than a stepparent has adopted a grandchild, the grandparents cannot request visitation privileges; however, if the grandchild is currently living with the grandparent, custody can be requested. In instances where grandparents feel their rights are being violated, they should consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Protecting the Rights of Grandparents in Texas

A divorce or separation can be incredibly hard on those involved, including grandparents. At Terry & Roberts, our grandparents’ rights attorneys understand the unconditional love and concern that grandparents have for their families in times of stress. If you feel that your rights as a grandparent are being violated, contact us today to see how we can help. 

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