If you want to understand the law, you have to understand this: It's about striking a balance between competing interests (or rights, as the case may be). The law surrounding grandparent visitation in Arkansas is an excellent example of how this balance works—and why achieving this balance can be so difficult.
On one hand, you have parents and their rights. Everyone pretty much agrees that parents should be able to make the decisions that affect their kids—unless, of course, the parents are unfit. Under normal circumstances, mommies and daddies don't like the courts telling them what's best for their kids. Subject to certain limitations, parents have a fundamental right to parent; as the word "fundamental" suggests, you don't mess with that right unless you have a good reason—and sometimes grandparent visitation is not a good enough reason.
Grandparents, however, don't have a fundamental right to act as grandparents. But they do have some rights, especially in our society, where grandparents play an increasingly important role in raising children. (As an aside, let me encourage any Arkansas grandparents who are currently helping to raise their grandchildren: Thank You!).
The law about grandparent visitation in Arkansas is built to balance these two interests—a parent's right to parent and the right that a grandparent has to keeping a good relationship with his or her grandchild.
A grandparent can get court-ordered grandparent visitation if the following conditions are met:
1. The marriage between the parents of the child has ended due to divorce, death, or legal separation. (Or the grandparent is one of the mom's parents or one of the dad's parents and paternity has been established.
2. The grandparent can show a significant and viable relationship with the child and that the grandparent visitation is in the child's best interest.
The requirements for a significant and viable relationship are set forth in the statute (Arkansas Code Annotated § 9-13-103), as are the requirements for what is in the best interest of the child.
If you're a grandparent and you think that you can meet these requirements, please contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation with an experienced family lawyer. We can help you decide what the next step should be.