If you are a grandparent, you already know all about the joyous feeling and overflowing love that is evoked through your beloved grandchild. In some cases, however, you may need to do more than spoil them and hug them; in some cases you may be inspired to seek custody of them. The need to take over this parenting job can be prompted by many different issues, but one thing is certain: most grandparents would do whatever it takes to ensure that their grandchild is properly cared for. Fortunately, grandparents nowadays have more power than ever before when it comes to custody, so read on to learn more about this issue.
Do you need to seek custody? This is not a decision to be taken lightly; it's a serious legal move that can be fraught with deep emotional ramifications. The law also takes child custody issues seriously, and for a grandparent to be awarded custody of a grandchild, there must be overwhelming proof that the child is in jeopardy. For example, here of some scenarios where a grandparent might seek custody of their grandchild:
- One or both parents are deceased.
- One or both parent have been incarcerated.
- One or both parents have demonstrated that they are unfit to parent—this can mean drug addiction, criminal acts, mental or physical abuse, alcoholism, mental disorders, incapacitation, and more.
What the courts will evaluate. The reasons, such as those listed above, must be compelling and convincing, and they must also be verifiable. For example, being suspicious that your grandchild is being exposed to drug activity is one thing; having a parent convicted of drug-related crimes is something else. You must be able to prove that the child is better off with you than with the biological parent, and judges are very reluctant to remove a child from that parent without good cause. Regardless of the reason, you must keep in mind that the family court system follows an important guideline when it comes to making decisions about minor children: the best interest of the child comes first. The interests of the parents and the grandparents come second.
Overcoming the hurdles. Seeking custody of your grandchild can be thought of as a two-part process, with the first being proving that the biological parent is unfit. The judge, however, won't simply sign a custody order awarding you custody because you requested it. It's your turn to come under the court's microscope, and you must be able to demonstrate that you are fit to take over the parenting of your grandchild. Some issues that you should be aware of and be prepared to demonstrate are:
- Can you provide a safe, clean and appropriate home environment for the child? Be prepared for an in-home evaluation where you must demonstrate a place for the child to sleep, toys, outdoor play opportunities, and more.
- Do you already have a relationship with your grandchild? The results of an interview with your grandchild (if of appropriate age) should reveal a loving and close current relationship.
- Are you in good health yourself? Children can be enormous energy drains.
- How prepared are you to deal with the emotional needs of the child? Your willingness to seek therapy for the child will be seen as a positive.
Speak to a family law attorney to learn more about seeking custody of your grandchild.