Nassau County Grandparent Custody Lawyer

When people with a child get a divorce, the court usually must determine which parent (or both) should be granted legal and physical custody of the child. However, it is not unheard of for a court to grant child custody to the grandparents or even other relatives. Of course, normally, a court prefers to grant both legal and physical custody to the parents, but under some circumstances such as neglect or abuse, that is not in the child’s best interests. If you believe your grandchild’s best interests indicate that custody should reside with you, consult with a good Nassau County grandparent custody lawyer. Your attorney can explain your legal options and the probability of your success if you decide to move forward. They can also help you with other issues such as visitation.

When Courts May Consider Granting Custody to Grandparents

The circumstances under which grandparents can hope to win custody are narrow. They also must be extreme in order to overcome parental rights. However, courts in Nassau County and throughout New York have recognized grounds for grandparent custody. Here are some of them.

  • Unfit: The parents are unfit, and the child would not be safe if placed with one of them. If a parent is an active alcoholic or abuses drugs, this may be enough to influence the court to place the child with their grandparents.
  • Abandonment: The parents have left the child.
  • Surrender: The parents have agreed that the grandparents should raise the child.
  • Abuse or neglect: The court will not knowingly place a child in an abusive or neglectful situation.
  • Strong bond: The child developing a strong relationship with the grandparent is not enough on its own if a parent can and will care for their child. However, such a bond helps the grandparents’ case in the face of other factors.
  • Extended disruption of custody: This means that the parents left the child with the grandparents for an extended period of time.

First, the judge will weigh whether the grandparents have standing to petition for custody. Just because the parents abandoned the child, does not mean they will automatically go to the grandparents. The burden of proof falls on the grandparents, so their lawyer must prove that the parents should not have custody of their own child. The grandparents may call witnesses to testify, produce mental health records and put other documents into evidence. The judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the child and will consider various factors before granting grandparent custody. These factors include the age, health and mental stability of the grandparents. If the judge does place the child with the grandparents, it may only be temporary. Should the judge deny the grandparents’ petition, it may still grant them visitation privileges.

A court may change custody and visitation over time as circumstances change. Consider the case of SS v. SS, 23 N.Y.S.3d 406 (N.Y. App. Div., 2016), where the husband’s mother sought custody. In the face of domestic violence, the child’s mother left her husband and sought refuge at a domestic violence shelter after placing the child with their grandmother. After some time went by, the Family Court awarded joint legal custody to the mother, the father and the grandmother. A couple years later, the mother requested full custody, and the court awarded physical custody to her. However, the court awarded joint legal custody to the mother and father. It also gave both the father and the grandmother visitation rights.

The grandmother appealed the court’s decision and sought custody. Despite the fact that the child had lived with the grandmother for three years, the court determined that the grandmother did not present the type of strong evidence needed to overcome the parents’ parental rights to custody. During the time the child stayed at the grandmother’s house, the mother tried to see the child and keep their bond despite the grandmother’s attempts to stop her. In the face of the mother’s petition for custody, there were no circumstances that justified the grandmother retaining custody of the child.

Nassau County Grandparent Custody Lawyer

If you think your grandchild would be best served by staying with your or if you are a parent who is afraid a grandparent will seek custody, you should consult a family law attorney in Nassau County who is experienced in grandparent custody matters. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates is experienced in all areas of family law including all types of custody. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.

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1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529)
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