Many grandparents care for their grandchildren for years before the parent eventually returns and asks for full custody. What legal rights, if any, the grandparents may have in this case depends on whether they think parental custody would be in the child’s best interests. Numerous factors will impact this question. The court will consider each of these concerns before making any changes. This article outlines factors and circumstances that can influence the decision in a child custody case.
Grandparent Visitation and Custody Rights
State laws significantly differ regarding grandparent visitation and custody rights. All states permit grandparents to request contact with their grandchildren, but not all permit grandparents to request custody. Depending on the state and the situation, grandparents may have the right to petition the court for custody of their grandchild even though they do not necessarily have custody rights by default.
How To Obtain Custody
Grandparents can petition the court for custody if they want to take full responsibility for and care for their grandchildren. Since most courts prefer for parents to raise their children, a grandparent’s ability to gain custody is often restricted to the following circumstances:
- The child’s parents are deceased.
- The child’s parents have been deemed unfit to retain custody.
- The child’s parents consent to grandparent custody.
- The child has lived with grandparents for a year or more.
Courts make an effort to decide which type of custody arrangement is best for the child in every case involving child custody. The court may consider the grandparent’s age, health, and financial capacity as well as the grandchild’s level of contact with them before the custody petition is filed.
Grandparents are encouraged to work out a solution without turning to the judicial system if they want to keep or resume visitation with their grandchildren. Some courts won’t move on until all non-legal remedies have been tried. Grandparents can either try to talk to the parents about visitation, or they can get the help of a mediator who is an impartial third party. If the matter isn’t settled, grandparents might ask the court for a visitation order. All states allow grandparents to get a court order to interact with and see their grandchildren. Visitation orders are of two types:
Only the following circumstances qualify for grandparents to get a visitation order under restrictive visitation laws:
- The parents of the child have separated or divorced.
- The child’s parents have either passed away or divorced.
Even if the initial conditions are satisfied, a grandparent won’t be given visiting privileges unless the court determines that the visitation is in the child’s best interests and does not interfere with the parent-child bond.
Most states have permissive laws governing grandparents’ visitation rights. As long as the visitation is in the child’s best interests, permissive visitation laws permit grandparents to get visitation orders. Grandparents must provide proof of a consistent and loving relationship with the grandchild. If the visitation does not interfere with the parent-child relationship, visitation is often deemed to be in the child’s best interests.
Grandparent visitation and custody disputes can be challenging. A child custody attorney should be contacted if you are a grandparent and want to exercise these rights. A skilled child custody attorney can represent you in custody or visitation hearings, provide advice on your rights and options, and help you prepare the necessary legal documents.
Your family’s individual circumstances will need to be thoroughly examined to fully understand the relationship between the grandparents and the child in each case involving grandparents’ rights. Since custody is not an inherent right, many states have varying guidelines regarding grandparent custody.