By, Paul M. Deep, Esq.
This is a continuing discussion of Legal Myths and Realities. An informed citizen is usually the most successful citizen.
MYTH: A grandparent does not have any legal rights to visit their grandchildren.
REALITY: Unfortunately, this has become a frequent issue with divided families. In cases where the grandparents are being denied visitation with their grandchildren, they can file a petition seeking visitation in Family Court. A grandparent does have an independent right to visit with their grandchildren as long as the grandparent has an existing relationship with their grandchildren or are able to prove that the parents of the child have prevented their ability to create a relationship with their grandchildren. The grandparents must also prove that it is in the best interest of the children to have visitation with their grandparents and the court can issue an order setting a specific schedule of visitation for the grandparents with their grandchildren. It is important to note that the judge must give significant weight to the parent’s position and the court must weigh several factors in determining what is in the best interest of the children.
MYTH: A person cannot transfer their assets into a trust to benefit their minor children through a will.
REALITY: It is very common for parents to create a trust through their will for the benefit of their minor children. The parents would have to select at least one Trustee, many parents have their wills drafted early and frequently select a backup Trustee in case their primary Trustee is either unavailable or unwilling to serve. The will can also have specific directions for their Trustee which is often to collect the income and reinvest for the support, education, and maintenance of the children. It is also wise to create a new will if there are children born after the preparation of the original will.
MYTH: A parent can sign off their legal rights to a child at any time.
REALITY: Generally speaking it is untrue that a parent can abandon their child and sign over all of their legal rights. In certain instances, a parent can have their legal rights terminated regarding their child. However, this is really limited to two main areas. The first is if the parents are charged with neglect and abuse of their child, the parents can sign a voluntary surrender agreement which will terminate their rights to their child and free the child for adoption. The second circumstance is in an adoption proceeding, a parent can sign a document consenting to the adoption of their child which will also terminate their legal rights to their child.
Giving attention to Legal Myths is not wrong. It can be a starting point for developing an interest in the Law. However, if legal issues are important in your life, for instance, but not limited to, custody of children, money payable for any reason or any other civil or criminal matter, it is wise to consult with a lawyer who can advise you of the truth of the many legal myths. This discussion is not intended to render legal advice on specific cases or to express an opinion on any specific case or to display any predisposition.