The law has provisions for grandparent visitation. Under certain circumstances, the grandparents can apply for and will be awarded custody of their grandchildren. Grandparent rights are a relatively recent phenomenon. Most of the state statutes on grandparent rights are less than 40 years old.
While grandparent rights are governed by state laws, certain federal acts may affect grandparent rights. The Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act passed in 1980 requires every state to give full faith and credit to any child custody order passed by a court in another state. Recent federal legislation requires similar treatment of grandparent visitation orders. So a court in one state must enforce the grandparent visitation order passed by a court in another state. All states except Vermont and Massachusetts have their own version of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act laying down the factors to be considered by the court when deciding child custody and how to deal with child custody ordered passed by a court in another states.
A few courts have held that state statutes on grandparent visitation rights are unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has held that the Washington state law that allow grandparent visitation rights violated the due process right of parents to raise the children. Many states revised their law after this judgment passed by the Supreme Court in Troxel v. Granville (2000). However the grandparent visitation laws in most states have survived intact. Speak to an experienced attorney to know the law in your state.