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A distraught grandmother wrote to a newspaper columnist, that she and her husband have been denied access to grandchildren by the ex daughter-in-law. She wants to know if there is anything they can do.

After their son's recent acrimonious divorce, the grandparents, who had a close relationship with two children, age 9 and 12, were denied all visits. The anger against the writer's son is now visited upon his parents.

Legally, there is very little that can be done since grandparents don't have absolute rights to visitation. If there was child abuse they could bring a case to court and might win some visitation. Even the U.S. Supreme Court had weighed in on this topic declaring that parents' rights outweigh any grandparent rights. Most courts have given deference to parental wishes unless the custodial parent is unfit for some reason.

Here the hurt and anguish remains fresh. The custodial parent must be given time to heal and reconsider what she has done. Courts always consider what is in the best interest of the child. In time, I believe the ex daughter-in-law will see that her children will benefit from rekindling the relationship with the grandparents.

I agree that the grandparents should contact the daughter-in-law directly and inform her that they don't and didn't take sides in the reasons for the divorce. They should explain what they would like to do with the grandchildren on a visit and promise not to denigrate her nor undermine her parental authority.

It may be too early to get a positive response. In that case, the grandparents should visit the children on a day when the son has them. In the meantime, they should send cards and e-mails so the children know they haven't been abandoned. Going to court to enforce visitation rights is a dangerous business. This could alienate the children and cause more conflict. These grandparents have to hope for a change of heart.

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