As a grandparent, you have a special kind of relationship with the child of your son or daughter. If your son or daughter is going through a divorce, the fear of losing contact with your grandchild is a legitimate concern.

Do you have any legal rights to gain custody of your grandchild?

Several circumstances exist that would allow you to file an action for physical or legal custody of your grandchild, even if you have not been in the role of the parent up to this point. The court requires you began your relationship with your grandchild with the consent of a parent, or through a court order. You must also be willing to become responsible for your grandchild. This involves both taking care of his or her needs and being responsible for his or her actions, just as a parent would be.

One of the following conditions must also be true:

  • There is a risk of abuse or neglect by the parents, the parents are incapacitated, or there is drug or alcohol abuse in the home.
  • Your grandchild has lived with you for 12 consecutive months or more, other than brief visits elsewhere, and the parent removed the grandchild from your home. In this case, you have six months in which to file an action for custody.
  • Your grandchild is a dependent child, meaning he or she does not have proper parental care, or the minimum support, legally required education or care needed for physical, mental and emotional health.

Other factors may affect whether your grandchild is a dependent child, such as whether he or she committed a crime before the age of 10, is ungovernable and needs supervision or habitually refuses to obey reasonable and lawful commands of a parent or guardian. In these cases, because the law will hold you accountable for illegal actions of your grandchild, you should evaluate carefully whether custody is something you can handle based on your personal circumstances.