Yes, in some cases. Nationally as well as in Indiana, grandparents are increasingly raising their adult children’s children. Sometimes this is just being great and helpful grandparents. In some cases, such as a parent going back to school or distant work relocation, parents must do so to better their lives, but in others, they do so for legally impermissible reasons, such as addiction issues; these parents simply leave their children with grandparents to raise. For all practical purposes, the grandparents take over the role of caregiver and provide all the support, shelter, and care and nurture of the grandchildren. In these cases, children often psychologically bond with their grandparents and have no contact with the parents. This bonding becomes like a parent. In these cases, the law allows grandparents to sue to obtain custody by being legally determined as de facto custodians and be awarded custody over their grandchildren. The requirements for obtaining this legal right is the focus of this blog post.
The first requirement grandparents must fact is showing they have had provided the care, nurture and support of their grandchildren for a period of at least six (6) months for older children (i.e., other than babies). This period may be non-consecutive blocks of time. The longer the time, the greater the grandparents have in legal proceedings to obtain custody. The evidence to support this may range from photographs of the grandparents doing parenting activities, such as attend school events to holiday parties where the parents are absent.
Secondly, the parents must have left or abandoned the children with the grandparents for illicit reasons. In other words, evidence that a parent who must leave his or her children in the care of the grandparents for self-betterment will not work to establish de facto custodian status. Significant reasons are to attend school, work or similar reasons such as military deployment. Here public policy and a fundamental right of parents to raise their children trumps the children’s bonding with a grandparent.
Lastly, all decisions a court makes in custody cases should be in the children’s best interests. If the evidence demonstrates a grandparent or step-grandparent should have custody, the court can award such custody. Normally, this is evidence by bonding of a grandparent with his or her grandchild. This may be shown in a variety of ways, such as by the testimony of specific events to bonding assessments by clinical psychologists.
While these cases are difficult, especially where a parent disputes grandparent are de facto custodians, the law allows a neutral judge to decide this matter in the child’s best interests. This is where the assistance of a skilled attorney can help grandparents analyzed the time they have provided the requisite care and assemble the evidence to prove this to the court. This is a high evidentiary burden but can be met. Many grandparents have sought de facto custody. In addition, grandparents in this situation have other legal remedies, such as guardianships or grandparent visitation as legal tools to provide some relief. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates handle child custody cases and grandparent’s de facto custody cases throughout the State. This blog is written for general informational purposes only. It is not legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.