As a parent, a grandparent or a member of a family, you may find yourself involved in an effort to transfer the custody for a child to that child's grandparents. The parents may be unwilling or unable to care for the child, and the problems may be temporary or permanent. In either case, the legal procedure is the same. The person concerned with the best interests of the child will have to follow a strict procedure to convince the court that a change of custody is warranted.
File your case with the Clerk of Courts for the child's home county. According to The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, that court will have the first say in the custody of a child. For a child with no specific county of residence, however, you'll have to file your case at the court for the county with the largest number of the child's records. For a child with no single court able to meet either requirement, file with any court convenient to you. That court may then be able to assert an emergency jurisdiction to save the child from a physical threat, or it may assert a type of jurisdiction called a vacuum jurisdiction due to the legal vacuum surrounding the child. In either case it will then be able to rule on the question of custody.
Prior to the trial, fill out and deliver notices of the trial to the other parties of the case. Laws may very by state, but most states follow federal guidelines for the service of a summons, which require that a summons include the day, time and place of the trial, as well as the name of the recipient's attorney or, in the absence of one, his own name. The notice will also have to state the ability of the judge over the case to make a decision even in the recipient's absence, and it will need to have the court's seal and the signature of the Clerk of Courts for that court. Any person older than seventeen other than a party to the case or relative can serve a summons; a law officer or process server can serve such a notice. After the service of the summons, however, the deliverer will have to fill out an affidavit affirming delivery as evidence of that delivery.
At the trial, present testimony and written and physical evidence to prove the grandparents to have a better relationship with the child than the parents, including the testimony of the child himself and an professional witnesses such as psychologists if possible. Many courts award custody to meet the best interests of the child, and proving the strength of such a relationship may demonstrate awarding custody to the grandparents to be in the best interest of the child. You will also, however, want to provide testimony and if possible written records of the grandparents having contributed a greater amount of time than the parents to meeting the the child's physical needs through such activities as preparing food, cleaning, seeing to his medical needs, transporting the child to necessary events and interacting with such people as his peers and teachers for his benefit. Given this evidence, the court may then see the child's grandparents as his primary caregivers and so may award custody on that basis. Many states normally award custody to a primary caregiver.
In the face of an insurmountable challenge to a custody plea from the child's parents, ask for either joint custody or specifically for the physical or legal custody of the child. Physical custody is the power to have the child present with you at specific days and times, and legal custody is the power to decide matters of the child's welfare, such as education, religion and medical treatment. Joint custody means sharing either legal or physical custody or both. A request for these limited kinds of custody will leave the child's parents with at least some influence over and access to their child and so may, even if permanent, leave them more wiling to grant some custody to others (See ref. 4).