When it comes to questions of family law and child custody, there are countless nuances that can be difficult to navigate without legal help. Often, grandparents fear that they will not be involved in a child’s life enough or that, following a divorce or separation, their interactions with and influences on their grandchildren will be severely downgraded. Because a family is not made up solely of children and their parents, these concerns of grandparents are not outrageous or unfounded. In some states, there are numerous options grandparents have at their disposal, one of which is seeking custody of their grandchildren. Today, we will take a look at some of the factors involved in a grandparents rights case and how a grandparent would be granted custody of their grandchildren.
Why Would a Grandparent Seek Custody?
When it comes to family matters, there are countless factors that come into play that may spring a grandparent into action. One of the most common cases arises when a parent passes away. In cases where this parent was granted sole custody or is an unwed mother with uncontested custody and then moves on, the grandparents may then become the sole custodians of the child. However, there are several other instances where a grandparent feels the need to step in. These situations may include things like:
- Abusive household: If grandparents notice something wrong with their grandchild or find evidence of abuse, they may use this as grounds to remove the child from an unhealthy home situation.
- Neither parent is able or willing to have custody: whether there are mental issues, abuse, abandonment, or another issue, sometimes biological parents are simply unfit to care for their offspring. As such, grandparents may step in to take up the child custody responsibilities.
- Current situation is detrimental to the child: similar to the case of visitation in which it is found that more time with a grandparent would be beneficial for the child, if the current situation is unhealthy for a child, be it issues between parents, an unsanitary or unsafe home, or something else, a grandparent’s intercession may be the best course of action.
- Parents are divorcing: sometimes, given the situation surrounding a divorce or legal separation, the mental health and stability a grandparent can provide may be more beneficial.
These are only some of the familial situations that can call for a grandparent to incur custody of their grandchild. While there are always unique situations that may or may not lend themselves to the realm of family law, it’s always best to check with a child custody and grandparents rights legal professional before taking legal action that will amount to nothing or waiting too long and missing an opportunity.
Third-party custody, in general, applies when a grandparent or other third-party (such as an aunt or uncle, older sibling, etc.) petitions the court for custody of the child when they are still in a reasonably good situation with one or both parents. Third-party child custody cases rely on a high burden of proof for the petitioning party. In a grandparent’s case, they and a skilled child custody lawyer Phoenix AZ relies on must prove to the court that they can provide a better lifestyle and living situation for the child. Oftentimes, when a grandparent seeks full custody, they must meet a list of requirements that includes:
- There has been no court-ordered custody prescription in one year before filing a petition. This means any decisions regarding the child’s custody has not been made in that time frame.
- A parental relationship with the child or children (in loco parentis)
- Detrimental for the child to remain in their current situation
- An impending divorce, unwed parents, or the death of a parent.
When these requirements are met, the court strongly considers these cases, which gives the grandparents a great start down the road of grandchild custody.
Grandparents are also able to adopt their grandchildren in some of these circumstances. Often it is a longer process, so it makes sense to apply for custody while adoptions are finalized. However, in some situations, a child may be adopted by someone who is not blood related. If a grandchild is adopted by an external party, the grandparent will then lose their legal rights to visitation of the child. This is because the child is no longer legally related to them. Much like legal status when it comes to visitation and unwed parents, visitation rights end when legal relationships dissolve. It is important the proper steps are taken before this situation can become a problem.
In many states, grandparents are entitled to fight for child custody and can be an influential part of their grandchild’s life.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hildebrand Law for their insight into grandparents rights.