Skip to Content
Serving Iowa Families Statewide

Grandparents' Rights in Iowa

Do Grandparents Have Legal Rights in Iowa?

Grandparents play a significant role in their grandchildren's lives. In addition to strong emotional bonds, many grandparents are also responsible for child care and other family responsibilities. When a parent dies, or a couple separates or divorces, this relationship can be disrupted. This can be difficult for grandparents and grandchildren alike. However, you may have legal recourse to preserve your relationship with your grandchildren.

In Iowa, grandparents have some limited rights, and you may have grounds to seek custody or visitation with your grandchildren. However, before pursuing grandparents' rights in court, you should seek legal representation from an experienced lawyer. An attorney can review your situation and help you determine if you have grounds to pursue legal visitation or custody. If going to court is your best option, having a lawyer by your side can help ensure that you are putting your best foot forward.

Some Things to Consider Before Pursuing Your Case

When pursuing these cases, you need to remember that you are not guaranteed a successful outcome just because you believe you have a strong case. Additionally, this can be a lengthy, expensive process. In some cases, if you bring an unsuccessful petition, the courts may require you to pay the attorney and court fees associated with the case, not just your own.

Furthermore, you can only bring a petition for visitation or custody every two years. If your case is denied, you are then stuck for the next two years. This is why it is so important that you work with a skilled attorney and do not go to court until you are ready.

Grounds for Seeking Visitation or Custody of Your Grandchildren

After speaking with your lawyer, if you determine that pursuing legal visitation or custody with your grandchildren is in your grandchild's best interest, there are a few things you will need to be prepared for. One of those is the heavy burden of proof on grandparents when pursuing custody or visitation with grandchildren.

When going to court, you will have to prove:

  • That visitation or custody with you is in the child's best interests
  • That your relationship with your grandchild or grandchildren is significant, and that the meaningful relationship was established before filing your petition
  • That the custodial parent is unfit to decide whether you should have visitation or custody of your grandchild or has impaired judgment

What Is Considered a Substantial Grandparent Relationship?

Understanding what the court means when they say the relationship between a grandparent and their grandchild is substantial can feel nebulous. Every family is different, and a meaningful relationship in one family may look different from an equally meaningful relationship in another. According to Iowa Law, several circumstances can qualify a grandparent/grandchild relationship as substantial.

A substantial relationship may include:

  • A child has lived with a grandparent for at least six months
  • The grandparent has financially supported the grandchild for at least six months
  • The grandparent has had frequent visitation with the grandchild for at least a year, including occasional overnight visits

The statute is clear that these are not the only ways to prove a substantial relationship but are good examples of what a meaningful and substantive relationship looks like. You should speak with your lawyer when it comes to establishing your relationships with your grandchild in the eyes of the court.

What to Do If You Think Your Grandchild Is in Danger

Unfortunately, some parents are unable to care for their children. This can happen for various reasons, including mental health issues, addiction, neglect, and/or abuse. In these situations, placing children with relatives is often preferable to putting them in foster care. When this happens, grandparents may wish to seek custody of their grandchildren.

Suppose you are in a situation in which you are concerned about your grandchildren's health and safety. In that case, the first thing you should do is reach out to a trusted lawyer familiar with grandparents' rights issues in Iowa.

A knowledgeable attorney can help you prepare for court and can help you build a strong case. At Hope Law Firm, we have helped countless families through difficult challenges like these, and we are prepared to use our knowledge and experience to help you too. We understand how delicate these situations are, and we approach every case with compassion.