It's only natural that grandparents love their grandchildren and want what's best for them. In most circumstances, your grandchildren are best served by living with their parents. When an unfortunate situation, such as a divorce or the death of one or both parents arises, then grandparents may desire custody of their grandchild or, at least, court-ordered visitation rights. Here is a brief guide for grandparents on this important legal issue.
If you are a grandparent seeking custody of a grandchild, you must realize that you are usually facing an uphill legal battle. In custody cases, the courts act on the legal concept of what is in the best interests of the child. The default position of the legal system is that the best interests of a child are to live with their parents. Exceptional circumstances must exist for a court to rule in favor of the grandparents over one or more parents.
One obvious reason for a court to grant custody to the grandparents is when both parents of the child are deceased. Another unfortunate circumstance that can lead to custody floor the grandparents is when one parent has died and the other has abandoned the children or cannot be located.
It's also possible for one or both parents to give permission for the grandparents to have legal custody because the parent or parents are not able to care for the child properly.
Barring these types of circumstances, as a grandparent, you will typically need to show that the parents are unfit to raise the child. The exact reasons that a court will declare a parent unfit vary from state to state. Some of the most common reasons are abandonment and neglect, as well as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Other possible causes of unfitness are severe mental illness and convictions for violent felonies.
Another issue that can crop up when divorcing parents are contesting custody is the grandparents' visitation rights. For example, what if custody of your grandchildren is granted to the parent who is not related to you? Does that parent have the right to deny you visitation? Most states will allow grandparents to file for visitation rights when the family is breaking up due to divorce or one of the parents has died. The court will typically decide the matter based on the best interests of the child.
To learn more about this complex legal issue, contact a child custody law firm, such as Ritter & LeClere APC Attorneys At Law, in your area.