Seeking Custody as Grandparents: Legal Pathways Explained

In certain situations, grandparents may be granted legal custody of their grandchild. This usually happens when the birth parents are unable to properly care for the child, or if it is determined to be in the child's best interest. In order for a grandparent to obtain custody of a grandchild, they must demonstrate their ability to provide a safe and loving home for the child.

If you are seeking custody of your grandchild, contact our child custody lawyers at Clarity Family Law today for a complimentary consultation. Our experienced Dearborn child custody attorneys can assist you in advocating for your custody rights, particularly if it is determined to be in the child's best interest to be in your care. Schedule a free consultation by calling our office at (313) 513-1919.

Do Grandparents Have Rights?

Grandparents have legal rights when it comes to receiving time with their grandchildren, even if it falls in conflict with a parent’s wishes. In certain cases, a grandparent may challenge the parents for full or partial custody of their grandchildren as well.

Grandparent Custody Rights

Grandparents wishing to establish legal visitation rights or custody rights should be aware that they may need to petition for visitation or create a custody petition in family court, and present evidence of why it is in the best interest of the minor child for them to have custody.

Grandparent custody is divided into four categories depending on the individual situation. Legal custody gives a grandparent the ability to make decisions regarding the child’s medical care and welfare, such as choosing doctors or enrolling them in school. Physical custody pertains to where the child permanently resides, and in this case, at the grandparent's house.

grandparents at a beach with their granddaughter

Joint custody is when two or more parties are responsible for making decisions that impact the child’s lifestyle; in this case, one parent and one grandparent, for example. Lastly, Grandparent Sole Custody grants one grandparent total control over their grandchild’s well-being and needs.

What if I'm Already Taking Care of My Grandchildren?

If you are already taking care of your grandchildren, it is essential that you take steps to ensure your legal rights are solidified and that you maintain custody of the children under the law. If no steps are taken, it's possible that you could lose the right to take care of your grandchildren.

The best way to do this is to contact a Michigan Grandparents' Rights Lawyer as soon as possible who can help file for legal guardianship if necessary. Having an experienced family attorney on your side will ensure that you are not taken advantage of during any proceedings and that you have all your rights secured in case of any disputes in the future.

Can Grandparents Get Custody of Their Grandchildren?

Grandparents may be able to gain legal custody of their grandchildren. Every situation is different and the court will examine each case carefully. For example, grandparents can likely gain custody of grandchildren if the parents are under investigation by the Michigan Department of Child Services, as this allows the children to remain with family rather than enter foster care. Additionally, custodial agreements between both parents might allow grandparents to gain custody of their grandchildren.

In some cases, a court may award legal and physical custody to an extended family member such as a grandparent if they can prove that it is in the best interests of the child. This normally requires evidence that implies either that one parent is unable or unwilling to take proper care of their child or that both parents are unfit to act as legal guardians. The grandparents’ financial situation and other necessary factors regarding them must also be taken into account for successful petitioning in these scenarios.

Death or Incapacitation of Parents

When a tragedy hits and both of a child’s parents die or become incapacitated without a will, the custody of their minor children is left to the courts to decide. In most cases, the courts grant custody to immediate relatives such as grandparents or siblings who may be more willing and equipped to raise the children properly.

Grandparents — even those legally part of the grandchild’s life — still are required to undergo legal proceedings in order to prove that it’s in the best interest of the child for them to have legal guardianship.

Voluntary Custody Agreement

When parents face financial struggles and hardships that make it challenging to care for their children, grandparents may step in and provide the necessary support. This can occur through a voluntary custody agreement that grandparents petition the courts for.

a grandfather teaching his grandson to ride a bike

The agreement is reviewed to ensure it is done of free will and in the best interest of the child involved. With this arrangement, grandparents can gain legal guardianship of the grandchildren.

Unfit Parent

Deeming a parent unfit is a difficult and heartbreaking process that can take place when it is determined that the child cannot live safely or comfortably in their own home. This decision is usually reached after the courts assess various factors surrounding the condition of the home, such as how dangerous the environment is for the child as well as if basic needs are being provided.

When a grandparent believes this to be the case, they can petition for custody on behalf of their grandchild. In order to do so, they must present evidence through documentation such as police reports, medical records, and/or witness testimonies.

What Makes a Parent Unfit?

When determining if one or both parents are unfit to care for their children, there are several factors the court will consider including abandonment or desertion, mental health of the parents, neglect, physical and/or emotional abuse, as well as any other documented forms of abuse.

When assessing any form of mistreatment in regard to parental rights, it must be pertinent and substantial evidence. The severity of each case varies and is thoroughly examined before reaching any decisions in regard to child custody and legal guardianship rights. Ultimately, it is up to the courts to decide whether the parent is an unfit or fit parent.

Get Representation from a Dedicated Custody Lawyer

You may find yourself in a difficult situation when trying to obtain legal custody of your grandchild, but having the guidance of an experienced attorney is essential for getting the best possible outcome. A knowledgeable lawyer can assess the circumstances of your specific case and help you draft a parenting plan that will give you legal custody of your grandchild.

Call Clarity Family Law for a free consultation today, and one of our experienced Dearborn family law attorneys can provide guidance and assistance throughout the entire legal process.

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