New York Grandparent Custody Lawyer

When the relationship between parents falls apart, one the most difficult issues to deal with is child support. While most child custody cases center on determining who the parents of the child are going to share parental responsibilities, there are some cases where other relatives such as the child’s grandparents are involved in custody disputes. Generally speaking the courts will defer to the parents of a child to make parenting decisions. The case would have to be out of the norm for the courts to even consider awarding grandparents custody. For example, if there is evidence of parent abuse or neglect, then the court might determine that it is in the best interests of the child that he or she be placed with grandparents. If you are in need of a family lawyer because you are seeking custody of your grandchild, it is important to contact an experienced New York child grandparent custody lawyer who will explain to you your legal options related to getting custody of your grandchild. We can also help you with related issues such as visitation and child support.

Grandparent custody

Grandparents are not automatically entitled to custody. Courts prefer for children to stay with their parents if possible. There are circumstances in which a grandparent would have standing to petition for custody. Such circumstances must be so extraordinary that the parents’ fundamental to right to custody of their children is overcome. New York courts have recognized the following circumstances as grounds to grant standing to grandparents to petition for custody:

  • Parental fitness and ability to provide a safe home- e.g. serious illness or drug or alcohol abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Surrender
  • Neglect or abuse of the child
  • Grandparents and child have developed a strong psychological bond
  • Extended disruption of custody

Once the court determines that the grandparent has standing to petition for custody, the court must determine if granting the grandparent custody is in the best interests of the child.

The grandparent seeking custody has the burden of producing evidence that there are grounds for removing the child from parental custody. Evidence may include testimony from witnesses, mental health records, and documents. The court will not only review the parents to determine if they are fit to raise their children, they will also look at the grandparents to determine if they are fit. Courts will consider a number of factors including the physical and mental health of the grandparents.

If the court determines that it is in the best interest of the child for the grandparents to have custody, the custody order may not necessarily anticipate a long-term placement of the child with the grandparents. The custody order could be temporary custody. In cases where the court denies the grandparent’s petition for custody, the grandparents may be granted visitation.

Example

In the case of SS v. SS, 23 N.Y.S.3d 406 (N.Y. App. Div., 2016), the paternal grandmother of a child sought custody. The child’s mother and father were married, but the marriage broke down amid allegations of domestic violence. The mother left the marital residence and moved into a domestic violence shelter, leaving the child in the grandmother's care. The Family Court awarded legal and physical custody of the child to the grandmother with limited parenting time to the mother. The Family Court later awarded the mother joint legal custody to be shared with the father and the grandmother. Two years later the mother petitioned for full custody of the child. The Family Court granted physical custody to the mother, joint legal custody to the mother and father, and allowed the grandmother and the father limited visitation and parenting time. The grandmother now appealed, seeking custody of the child. The court concluded that the grandmother did not present evidence of extraordinary circumstances that would overcome the parents’ superior right of custody. Even though the child lived with the grandmother for 3 years, the mother attempted to maintain a relationship with the child and to regain custody. The grandmother tried to thwart the mother’s attempts. At this point there are no longer extraordinary circumstances that would justify the grandmother getting custody of the child.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are a grandparent who would like to seek custody of your grandchild, you should discuss your case with someone who has experience. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates has years of experience successfully representing clients seeking custody, visitation, and who have other family matters. We will review your case and work closely with you to determine the best course of action for you as you seek custody or visitation with your grandchild. 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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