WMU News

Grandparent visitation rights

Feb. 18, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- A case in Washington involving grandparent visitation rights has made its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and focused attention on the rights of grandparents. And for good reason, says Dr. Linda Dannison, chair of the WMU Department of Family and Consumer Sciences and developer of a curriculum for grandparent support groups. In increasing numbers, grandparents are caring for and providing homes for their grandchildren.

"So many grandparents today have a substantial role in raising their grandchildren," Dannison says. "11 percent of grandparents either provide regular childcare or are raising their grandchildren today. That is a 75 percent increase since 1970 and involves about 3.9 million children who are living with their grandparents."

Says Dannison, "There are 60 million grandparents in this country, and that means one out of three adults is a grandparent. So that's a very substantial number of folks who are very interested in the phenomenon of grandparenting."

Dannison says all states have a grandparent visitation law on the books, but Michigan's only applies in cases of divorce. Thus, the grandparents in the Washington case would not have legal standing in Michigan since the parents were never married. Dannison adds that it will be interesting to see how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the case, since most of the justices are themselves grandparents.

"Chief Justice Rehnquist is a grandparent, but so are Justices Stevens and O'Connor and Scalia and Kennedy and Ginsburg," Dannison says. "These folks are all grandparents and in fact Justice Thomas was raised by his grandparents. So they certainly have a vested interest in this case."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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