Child Custody: Tips for When Grandparents Seek Custody

Many states have custody laws which allow a court to allocate the custody of an underage child to his or her grandparents. Since these laws can often infringe on the child’s biological parent’s basic rights to parent the child, the laws have to fit a compelling interest to protect the welfare and safety of the child. These are the grandparents’ rights you should be aware of.

A constitutionally acceptable rule, which allows a judicial court to award the custody of a child to a grandparent, frequently requires the grandparent to:

  • Overcome the presupposition that the biological parents acts in the best interest of the child; and/or
  • Demonstrate the likelihood that the child will experience a form of disadvantage if the child’s custody is awarded to his or her biological parents.

Facing Disadvantages

During this examination, the child’s grandparents are at a disadvantage compared to the child’s biological parents. Typically, the court will not award custody to the grandparent simply because the grandparent has superior parenting abilities or better means of providing for the child. Often, grandparents will lose custody to a parent, even if the parent has  inferior parenting abilities.

During a proceeding, the evidence a grandparents needs to present depends on local state law. Seeking the custody of a child can be quite challenging for grandparents. Since they face a difficult battle, grandparents should always seek the professional advice of a qualified attorney. With the aid and support of an experienced family law attorney, grandparents can understand what factors will improve their chances at winning their grandchild’s custody. If the grandparents will not be able to win full custody, an attorney can help to facilitate court ordered child visitation rights.

The Implications of Seeking Child Custody

While seeking a child’s custody, grandparents should consider the following tips:

Reflect on the long-term implications brought forth by filing for custody rights.

It is not uncommon for a grandparent to disagree on the decisions a parent makes in regard to a child’s upbringing. If the disagreements become extreme, a grandparent can consider filing for that child’s custody. It is important to remember that fighting for a child’s custody when the relationship is otherwise pleasant can cause irreversible damage. Any amicable relationships can quickly disintegrate. More importantly, the grandparent will face the possibility of permanently losing any privileges they might have had with the child.

The possibility of challenging both parents should always be present.

It is always important to remember that while a child can have a single parent, there is always the possibility that the other parent could be contacted in the event that the case goes to trial. If an address is known for both parents, a notice will need to be presented to both biological parents. There is always a possibility that both parents will be present during a hearing. If this is the case,  filing for child custody rights could unintentionally award the child’s custody to an absent parent.

Grandparents should be strategic when they begin the filing process.

Grandparents may be able to file for custody if the biological parent is deceased, or where the child’s biological parent is incapable of safely caring for the child. Examples include:

  • After the parent has been convicted of a crime,
  • After a parent has been diagnosed with an impairing illness,
  • When a biological parent is suffering from drug abuse,
  • Seeking custody when there is evidence that the biological parent is involved with abusive partners.

Any of these situations could suggest that the child will be better off with a grandparent than biological parents.

Always be supportive of the child’s relationship with his or her biological parent.

One of the most harmful decisions a grandparent can make is discouraging a relationship between the child and biological parents. A court will almost always grant custody and parental rights to a child’s biological parents. This is because the parents have a profound influence on a child’s development.

If there are no signs of abuse, grandparents should facilitate this relationship between the child and his or her parents. This act could even solidify the relationship between the child and his or her grandparents.