Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues Issue Search
|Title||Who Gets to Visit? A History of Third-Party Visitation Rights in Family Court|
|Abstract||The entitlement to third-party visitation-an entitlement, held by someone such as a grandparent, stepparent, or adult sibling, to claim time with a child over the objection of the child's legally recognized parents-is a recent development in American family law. Throughout most of the 20th Century, no matter how close or extended their factual relationship with the child, third parties had no right to spend time or even communicate with a minor child in the custody of its parent or parents.
The 1960s, however, saw the rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and single parenting being to spin out of control. State legislatures began to invite some types of third parties- most often grandparents-to petition for visitation rights when parents divorced, died or separated. Many states eventually broadened these statutes to allow their courts to award visitation "in the best interest of the child" to any third party. by the mid-1990s, all states had third-party visitation statutes. Although many state statutes specifically limited visitation over parental objection to disrupted families, others could be interpreted to authorize third-party visitation when the child's immediate family was still intact.