Generally, all parents have a legal right to make decisions for their children. Sometimes, however, there are circumstances that require a court to decide that it is in the child’s best interest for him or her to be removed from the parent and cared for by another person.
Because grandparents often play an important role in a child’s life, grandparents may want to seek custody of their grandchild, especially in situations where the child’s parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child.
When a grandparent is given the legal right to care for a child by the court, it is called legal custody. This allows the grandparent to make decisions for the child.
In deciding whether to grant the grandparent legal custody, the court will review all relevant factors. These include the wishes of the child’s parent regarding custody, the child’s wishes, the relationship the child has with the parent and siblings, the mental and physical health of all of the parties and the child’s adjustment to his or her home, community and school, among others.
If the grandparent is granted legal custody of the child, the grandparent is responsible for educating, maintaining and supporting the child. However, grandparents with legal custody can ask the court to order the child’s birth parents to pay child support.
If the court does not grant legal custody to the grandparent, the grandparent can petition the court for visitation rights. The court will grant visitation rights where it believes that the visitation is in the best interest of the child.
Custody and visitation determinations can be complex. An experienced attorney can provide representation and answer questions.