In the United States, a surprising percentage of grandparents are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. According to statistics, about 2.7 million grandparents are the custodians of their grandchildren.
Even more surprising, of those 2.7 million grandparents taking the responsibilities of raising their grandchildren, only 11% are because of the death of one or both of the child’s parents.
That means, the other 90% of grandparent seeking custodial rights of their grandchild were doing so against their own children or in-laws. Literally 9 out of 10 of these cases had parents still available, if not able to care for their children under certain compelling circumstances.
A shocking number indeed. There are several reasons why a grandparent may seek to have custody of the grandchild.
In Texas and most other states for instance, for a grandparent or any other third party to obtain the conservatorship, they must prove to the court that the child has been in their custody for at least 6 months before filing a custody case.
In addition to that, when the parent retracts a prior voluntary agreement where you have stayed with the grandchild for at least 60 days, the law gives a window of up to 90 days where a grandparent can file for custody.
“The Best Parents Get Promoted to Grandparents”
Of course, there are so many other reasons why a grandparent can file for custody of a grandchild and that may include:
Detrimental living environment
When the parents subject the child to detrimental living conditions, the grandparent may seek the court to have a child live with him or her. In this case, he or she must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the living conditions that the child has been subjected to are unfavorable, and not fit for the child’s growth and development.
If the court proves that indeed the child has been subjected to detrimental living conditions that are not in the best interests of the child, the court will then consider the application of having the grandparent taking temporary physical custody of the child.
If the parent agrees to have the child live with the grandparent temporarily, the grandparent may file for custody orders to allow him or her to take full custody of the child. This can happen if the parents are unable to meet the demands of the growing child, and the grandparent is willing to take full responsibilities regarding the child.
Both parents are unfit to hold custody
There are situations when both of the parents are unfit to care for the child. This could result from a history of violence or when one parent is suffering from mental illness and the other parent is abusive.
A grandparent may seek the help of the experts to assess the situation and to provide evidence that would be used in court to prove the unsuitability of both parents to hold custody.
Abuse or neglect by the parents
If the child has been constantly abused or neglected by the parents, the grandparent has valid grounds to file for custody. Abuse of the child can come in many forms and it is detrimental to their emotional well-being and development.
The court will always seek to promote what is in the best interests of the child. In this case, a grandparent must prove with valid evidence how the child or children have been abused or neglected by their parents.
According to statistics, about 28% of the kids that are raised by their grandparents were victims of neglect, abuse, and abandonment by their parents.
Parents excessive involvement in drugs and alcohol
When parents get immersed in drugs and alcohol, they subject the child to emotional stress and psychological problems. They can become abusive when they are under the influence of drugs and with that, the court will step in to protect the interests of the child.
In this situation, a grandparent may file a petition to take responsibility for caring for the child or children due to the parents’ continued misconduct and involvement in drugs.
If the parents are unable to care for the child
The inability of the parents to cater to the needs of the child in terms of education, health care, food, shelter, and clothing would present a window for the grandparent who has the capacity to file for custody and to take care of the grandchild.
The court will call in State or County Child Family Services to analyze the situation with material evidence presented to prove that indeed the parents are unable to fend for the child.
Mental illness of the parent
This can happen if one parent has died and the remaining parent becomes incapacitated or develops a mental illness. This is a rare scenario, but it happens, and that presents an option for the grandparent to file for custody of the child or children.
Parent with a history of violence
Violence against children is a matter that carries a lot of weight when presented in a custody case. It is not in the best interests of the child to be tortured or mistreated by the parent or parents.
Whether both parents are living and have subjected the child to violence and abuse, or one parent is living and has been violent to the child, the grandparent can file to have custody of the grandchild.
The court will only work with the evidence presented to prove that indeed the parents have been violent to each other or towards the child.
A parent is convicted of a felony
If the parent of the child is convicted of a crime and is going away for a while, the grandparent could seek to have custody rights over the child. This can happen in a situation where one parent has died or is not in the capacity to provide a safe environment for the child.
Both parents have died
There is no option left when both of the parents have died but for the court to grant custody rights of the child to a third party. That could be a close family member or a grandparent.
In this situation, if the grandparent is still living and has the capacity to raise the child, he or she can file for custody. This is considered by the court a much better solution than foster care.
The court will assess the suitability of the grandparent to ascertain whether he or she is best suitable to care for the child or not.
A will by the parent
If the parent died and left a will to have the grandparent take custody of the child or children, that will serve as evidence in the court when the grandparent files for custody.
A will is respected by the court and is deemed to promote the best interests of the child or children and not just the wishes of the deceased.
Court Consideration before Granting Custody to Grandparent
With all the evidence presented by the grandparent to the court, the judge will consider the suitability of the grandparent and the best interests of the child.
Even if the parents have died, it is not automatic for the grandparent to be granted custody if it does not serve the best interests of the child or children. Some of the factors that the court would consider include:
Time spent with the child
The court will consider the time that the grandparent has spent with the grandchild and whether it is reasonable enough, and within the scope provided in the family statute.
The judge will also consider the emotional bond that exists between the child and grandparent. If the child is in a good relationship with the grandparent, the court is likely to grant custody after considering other factors as well.
The ability of the grandparent to cater to the child’s needs
The grandparent should also have the ability to provide for the needs of the child before seeking custody. The court will assess the capacity of the grandparent and whether he or she can afford to cater to all the needs of the child regarding food, shelter, clothing, school fees, and healthcare among other needs.
Mental and physical health of the grandparent
The grandparent must also be fit physically and mentally to have custody of the grandchild. He or she must be able to take care of himself and herself before seeking to have a grandchild with him or her.
The court will employ the experts to assess the mental health of the grandparent before granting them custody of the grandchild or children.
Suitable home environment for the child
If the grandparent is living with other relatives, the court will want to understand whether that is suitable for the child or not.
The home environment should also have social amenities such as good schools, children’s playgrounds, and healthcare facilities among other stuff that would serve to promote the best interests of the child.
A grandparent is fit to take custody of the grandchild if it serves the best interests of the child. With valid reasons and evidence as we have discussed, a decision of a grandparent to have custody of the grandchild will be considered by the court.