Grandparents do not have a right to custody of their grandchildren. As long as the parents are fit, it is their right to raise their children as they wish. However, if the parents want the grandparents to have custody, the grandparents together with the parents can file a consent order in court, asking the judge to give custody to the grandparents. Legal custody allows the grandparents to make all decisions for the children.
Understand the consequences of giving up legal and physical custody. The physical custodian is the person with whom the child lives. The legal custodian is the person empowered to make decisions for the child. When a grandparent becomes the legal custodian, the parents give up their rights to control the upbringing of their child.
Go to your local family court together with the grandparents. Ask the clerk for the paperwork needed to file for custody by consent. Confirm that the paperwork your receive has a "complaint" and an "answer" form.
Complete the necessary forms. The grandparents complete the complaint. The parents complete the answer. When completing the forms focus on explaining why this switch in custody is in the best interest of the child.
File the form with the clerk and pay the required filing fee. The fee is paid by the person filing the complaint. The clerk will either give you a hearing date with a judge at the time you file or you will receive it in the mail. Call the clerk to ask about the status of your case, if you do not receive a hearing date in the mail within two weeks.
Attend the hearing. When the judge asks, explain to the judge why the grandparents having custody is in the best interest of the child. The judge may order a social worker to go to the grandparents' home to help the judge decide if the grandparents are fit to have custody. The judge may also want a social worker to talk to the children or he may appoint a lawyer for the children. After the judge has enough information, he will make a decision. If the grandparents are fit and the parents consent, the judge is likely to give the grandparents custody.
- When the grandparents have custody, parents continue to be responsible for child support.
- Once a final custody is issued by a judge, it is very difficult to change the order. The parent will have to prove that a significant change in circumstances warrants switching custody back to her.
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