When people think of child custody they often think about heated divorces or parents who become unfit to care for the child after a custody determination has already been made. Yet, more and more, grandparents are entering the custody rights picture.
While many instances where grandparents raise their grandchildren occur in a multi-generational home where the grandchild's parents are present, so called "skip-generation families" are becoming more common. Skip-generation families are created when substance abuse, incarceration, or mental health issues render the child's parents unfit to care for the child. When a child has unfit parents, grandparents may step forward to seek custody of their grandchildren.
Obtaining custody or visitation rights of a grandchild can be complicated. When seeking custody, a petition must be filed, after which a judge will determine which household suits the best interest of the child. To make this decision, the court will analyze whether the child's parents are unfit and the grandparents' relationship with grandchildren. A court may also look to see if there are any special child's needs and which household is best prepared to provide for those needs. To seek visitation, the grandparents must establish their connection with their grandchild and argue why it must be continued.
Grandparents' rights are extremely important and can play a vital role in a child's life. A family attorney experienced in arguing for grandparents' rights can sit with the grandparents and develop a strategy that works for them to support the child's best interests. Though any change of custody or visitation may be difficult, whether occurring during a divorce or afterwards, the ultimate focus is to do what is best for the child in the long run. An experienced attorney can help ensure this happens accordingly.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, "More and more, grandparents raising their grandchildren," Anita Creamer, Aug. 14, 2013