Grandparents can be heavily involved in the life and child-rearing responsibilities of children; sometimes they even become the primary caregivers. While the majority of child custody cases are between parents, grandparents have the right to seek custody of their grandchildren as well.
So, how cana grandparent gain custody of their grandchild? Is it a more difficult process than a biological parent? What steps are needed to gain child custody?
Obtaining Custody if Both Parents Are Alive
When both parents are alive, the state will try to award custody to either one or both parents. This is because the state will always take into account the best interests of the child above all other matters. If both parents are unwilling or unable to care for the child, a grandparent can step in and seek custody.
Circumstances that could warrant grandparental custody include:
- both parents consent to grandparental custody;
- both parents are deemed unfit to care for the child;
- there is documented neglect or abuse in the parents’ home;
- there is evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in the parents’ home;
- one or both parents are mentally ill; or
- one parent is unfit and the other won’t, or can’t, take care of the child.
If other family members are also seeking custody of the child, the grandparent could still be denied. However, if the grandparent has already been caring for the child for more than 1 year, the court may rule in favor of the grandparent.
Obtaining Custody if the Custodial Parent Is Deceased
A custodial parent is the one who has primary physical and legal custody of a child. If the custodial parent dies, a court’s first choice is the other parent; even if this other parent hasn’t been a stable fixture in the child’s life. The second choice is generally a close relative.
The court will determine which relative would be the best fit based on the following factors:
- if the relative already had physical custody of the child (the child has been living with this relative);
- the parents left a will naming the relative as guardian;
- the child wants to live with the relative; and
- the relative’s age, health, and financial situation.
Contact The Law Offices of Mark R. Hinshaw
If you are thinking about seeking custody of your grandchild, our grandparents rights lawyers can help. We know how to navigate the legal proceedings of child custody and will assist you in obtaining the outcome you are after.
Call our firm today at (515) 200-7571 or contact us online for a consultation.