There are a number of reasons why grandparents may consider filing for custody of their grandchild. Having custody means being responsible for the care and control of the child. Here are some common situations where grandparents pursue legal custody:
Parental Issues Leading to Instability
If the child’s parents have issues with drugs, alcohol, or other addictions, this can seriously impact their ability to adequately care for the child. Substance abuse often leads to neglect, lack of supervision, and an unstable home environment. Grandparents may feel they need to step in to provide a more stable home for the grandchild.
Mental Health Problems
Similarly, untreated or severe mental health conditions like depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia can make it difficult for parents to properly care for a child. Grandparents may pursue custody if the parents’ mental health issues are negatively affecting the grandchild.
If one or both parents are sentenced to jail or prison time, this leaves the child without proper parental care and supervision. Grandparents may seek custody while the parent is incarcerated.
Sometimes parents voluntarily give up custody of their child due to inability or unwillingness to care for them. If the parents abandon the child, grandparents can file for custody.
Child Welfare Concerns
Abuse and Neglect
If grandparents suspect the parents are abusing or severely neglecting the grandchild, they may report the situation to child welfare services. But rather than placing the child in foster care, grandparents may file for custody.
Lack of Proper Care
Even if abuse and neglect don’t rise to a level that warrants removal by child welfare, grandparents may still have concerns about the child’s care. For example, the parents may not be providing enough food, clothing, medical care, hygiene, or supervision. Grandparents can seek custody if they feel the parents are unable to meet the child’s basic needs.
Death or Serious Illness of Parent(s)
Single Parent Death
If the child’s parent dies or becomes incapacitated due to serious illness, the remaining parent may struggle to provide proper care, especially if they work full-time. Grandparents may file for custody to help the grieving parent.
Both Parents Deceased
If both parents die in an accident or due to illness, grandparents are often the closest remaining relatives. They may immediately file for custody so the child can stay with family while the courts determine long-term arrangements.
Parent Deployment in Military
Deployed military parents may arrange for grandparents to have temporary custody over their child while they are stationed abroad. This allows the child to maintain family relationships rather than being placed with temporary guardians or in foster care.
Willingness to Provide Better Opportunities
Grandparents who are financially stable may feel they can provide opportunities the parents cannot, such as:
- Better schooling
- Extracurricular activities
- College savings
- Needed medical treatments
If grandparents can enhance the child’s education, opportunities, and wellbeing, they may pursue custody for that advantage.
Maintaining Family Ties
Grandparents may want to keep the child connected to extended family, cultural heritage, or traditions. If parents relocate far away, neglect facilitating family visits, or isolate the child, grandparents may file for custody to ensure family ties are preserved. They want to reinforce the family support system and nurture those ancestral bonds.
Preserving Previous Caretaking Role
Finally, grandparents who were very involved in raising the child may file for custody to maintain that caretaking role. Perhaps they lived with the family, provided childcare regularly, or took the child for long visits. Grandparents don’t want to lose their relationship with a grandchild they already partially raised.
In summary, grandparents may pursue custody due to concerns about parental fitness, child welfare, maintaining family bonds, or providing better opportunities. The court will determine if granting custody to grandparents is in the child’s best interest. With legal advice and strong evidence, grandparents have a case.