A recent Reuters article indicates that the focus of more and more stories involving the role of grandparents in the lives of their children and grandchildren following a divorce is being predominantly driven by two solidly emerging trends.

First, pure economics is front and center in many cases, with grandparents in recent years stepping in to help their kids and grandkids more than ever before. Times obviously continue to be tough for many people in the midst of recessionary times, and grandparents’ financial contributions attest to that.

The AARP notes, for instance, that about 25 percent of grandparents spend $1,000 or more annually on their grandchildren. More than a third say that they assist with daily expenses.

A second trend is the increased difficulty in many instances for grandparents to easily negotiate visitation rights with their grandkids in the wake of a 2000 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a law in Washington state. That law held that a court could order visitation rights if doing so was in a child’s best interests.” Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, many state child custody and visitation laws have been uncertain and are in limbo.

The Pew Research Center has done extensive “wealth gap” research focusing on the average disparity in disposable income between younger adults heading families and senior-led households. That organization’s findings shed further light on why grandparents are financially assisting their children and grandkids at historically high levels.

Researchers noted that a 10 -to-one income gap existed between households led by seniors and those headed by adults under 35 years of age, respectively, in 1984. By 2009, they say, that ratio had expanded to an eye-popping 47-to-one disparity.

Source: Reuters, “Grandparents, purse strings and divorce,” Temma Ehrenfeld, July 23, 2012