For a grandparent, it can be heartrending to realize that your grandchild is in need of some help. Parents are not always able to do the right thing, and there may come a time when you need to take legal action to ensure that your grandchild receives proper care. Grandparents now have newly-recognized legal rights to child custody and visitation, so having a good understanding about how the family courts view grand-parental custody can be a valuable asset. Read on to learn more about seeking custody and what the judge looks for in fit custodial grandparents.
Why would a grandparent choose to seek custody? While every life has its ups and down, there may come a time when the health and well-being of your grandchild is being affected negatively by their parent. Some of the more common situations are:
- Parent has died.
- Parent is incarcerated.
- Parent has been convicted of child abuse.
- Parent is abusing drugs and/or alcohol.
- Parent is mentally incapacitated or physically unable to care for the child.
- Parent is not institutionalized but is suffering from a mental illness that is causing harm to the grandchild.
If any of the above sounds familiar, you may need to seek legal representation and request a child custody hearing. While judges are very reluctant to adjust custody due to the impact on the child, if the best interest of the child is not being served and a fit and able alternative caregiver is prepared to step in, a change in custody will be ordered. You should keep in mind that mere allegations of abuse or drug use are not sufficient; you must have hard and convincing evidence of parental wrong-doing. You will need police reports and other official documents to back your claims.
What is the judge looking for in grand-parental fitness? Even if the child's biological parents are ruled to be unfit, custody assignment to a grandparent is not always given. The grandparent must be healthy and able to care for the child. If the grandparent is not found to be fit for custody, another relative or a foster home will be ordered. To be approved for custody, you must be prepared to show that you:
- Have a clean and appropriate living space for the child.
- Are prepared to provide medical care, clothing, food, educational needs, and recreational and social opportunities for the child.
- Already have a working relationship with the child.
- Are in good mental and physical health.
It can be heartbreaking to even consider that your beloved grandchild could be in jeopardy, so speak to a divorce lawyer at the first sign of problems.