Grandparental Rights And Child Custody
Grandchildren are always a joy and embody the spirit of "unconditional love". Sometimes, however, that joyous relationship is tested. At some point, you may have to make the difficult decision to acknowledge that your grandchild needs to be in your legal care and custody. Grandparents seeking custody of their grandchild do have legal rights, so if you fear that your beloved grandchild needs more from you than love and hugs, read on.
Why would a grandparent seek custody?
Something has to go very wrong in your grandchild's life for this issue to arise, such as one or more of following:
1. A parent or both parents are deceased.
2. A parent or both parents are incarcerated.
3. A parent or both parents are unfit in some manner. Unfit can cover a wide range of problems, such as alcohol and drug addiction, mental disorders, physical infirmities (coma, etc) and more.
The best interest of the child.
This overriding principle of the family court system works to ensure the most vulnerable members of our society are protected. It should be noted that the needs and desires of the parents, grandparents, and other interested parties is not a priority with the courts. Therefore, the needs of the child must dictate the actions of the court.
The first two named issues above are often resolved fairly quickly, since the grandparents are seen as the "next best thing" to a biological parent. The third issue, however, is often more difficult to settle. Proving that a child's parent is unfit can be an emotional and stressful experience, and often you may be facing a contentious court battle. Separating a child from their biological parent is a large undertaking, and you must be prepared to show irrefutable proof of a parent's inability to be a good parent in order to get custody of that grandchild.
What the judge looks for in a custodial grandparent.
Once you have proven a parent unfit, you must still show the courts that you are capable of caring for your grandchild adequately. The judge will look at several factors, among them:
- The home environment. Is it safe, clean, healthy, nurturing, and loving?
- Your current relationship with your grandchild. Have you spent much time with your grandchild?
- Your health. Raising a child takes boundless energy and reliable health, so your relative good health will be evaluated.
- The child's emotional life. Most children, except for perhaps the very youngest babies, will be impacted by being removed from a parent's care. Even bad parents are still parents, and you must show that you are prepared to deal with this separation, such as making plans for counseling for the child.
- The attitude of the child. If they are old enough to express this, do they want to live with you?
Be sure to seek the advice of a family law attorney during this process to help ensure that you do the right thing for your grandchild.