Here’s a sad scenario: Grandma and Grandpa pay for camp, shoes and college funds. But something goes awry; the kids’ parents decide to split, and next thing you know it’s Grandma and Grandpa who are out in the cold, writing checks but missing their grandchildren.
Think that couldn’t happen? There are at least two trends that point to more of the above. Grandparents are helping their progeny more than ever; the AARP reported that a quarter spent more than a $1,000 a year on their grandkids, with 37 percent saying that they helped cover daily living costs.Grandparents’ rights to see and spend time with their grandchildren has become more difficult to litigate since the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling in 1996, Beagle v. Beagle, which struck down a Florida Statute that allowed courts to order visitation rights for grandparents if they would be in the child’s “best interest.” That is too bad, because grandparents help out a lot. Better yet, tax laws allow gifts of $13,500 a year from one individual to another before gift tax limits start to kick in. But be careful. Judges differ about how to evaluate regular financial gifts from grandparents. A judge could count regular gifts as part of a parent’s income, which can impact child support calculations and even alimony. As the article goes on to note, parents can get greedy too.
“I’ve seen parents say ‘it’ll be a $1,000 a visit’ and I’ve had grandparents pay it,” says Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, family lawyer Richard Victor, founder of the Grandparents Rights Organization, which helps grandparents with visitation battles, among other problems.
“It’s emotional blackmail and will escalate if you give into it,” says Abramowitz, who advises clients to offer to pay for family therapy instead.Is there a solution for grandparents? “You get more with sugar than you do with a cane,” says Atlanta family lawyer Randall Kessler, who chairs the American Bar Association Family Law Section. “Be nice to the person who has control, and that may include some financial support.” Kessler also gets creative: When a mother objects to being parted from her children, he has suggested that grandparents invite the mother along on a family vacation as their guest, even with her current partner. “Usually they stay in a hotel down the road,” he says. More often, they turn down the offer but allow the visit.”