Nonparental Childcare and Child Contact Orders for Grandparents
Parness, Jeffrey A.
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The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized that the regulation of certain areas of domestic relations, including standing to seek a childcare order, rests within the virtually exclusive province of the states. State lawmakers recently have undertaken many new domestic relations initiatives relevant to parental and nonparental childcare, prompted by new forms of human reproduction, large numbers of nonmarital births, and shifts in in family structures. In this article we review past, current and future state lawmaking on the availability of nonparental childcare and child contact orders for grandparents. Our work coincides with the current inquiries into new model childcare laws by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) involving both parental childcare, via a “Revised Uniform Parentage Act” (RUPA), and nonparental childcare, via a new “Non-Parental Child Custody and Visitation Act” (NPCCVA). Each model will speak in some ways to childcare by grandparents for their grandchildren. We introduce our examination by describing one grandmother’s efforts to maintain her connections with her granddaughter after her son’s, the father’s, tragic death. Upon describing Grandma Penny’s efforts to maintain connections with her granddaughter, Sidney, we review the preliminary work of the NCCUSL; the federal constitutional limits on nonparental childcare and child contact orders over parental objections; and, current state laws on opportunities for grandparent childcare and child contact. We then explore the key questions facing state lawmakers considering new grandparent childcare and child contact laws. We find existing laws, and the NCCUSL models to date, inadequate for the likes of Grandma Penny and Sidney.