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Grandparents play a crucial role in the lives of their grandchildren. When the need arises, however, they can play the main role of parent to their grandchildren. This is legally mandated by the Laws of New York under certain circumstances.

If you are a grandparent and are worried about the care and well-being of your grandchildren, you will be happy to know that you can get visitation or custody rights under the following circumstances:

• If you have a good relationship with your grandchildren and it can be proven that this relationship is substantial enough to provide meaningful influence to the child or children.

• If the parents to the children both die.

• If the children’s parents have barred you from having a relationship with the children and this relationship is important to their growth and development.

• If the parents of the child completely abandons their responsibility to take care of their child.

• If the parents of a child are declared not fit to take care of their child or children.

• If the child’s home is characterized by drug and/or alcohol abuse, and physical abuse.

• If the child belongs to a single parent home, their primary caregiver is deemed unfit, and the other parent refuses to take care of their child, the grandparents can be granted custody or visitation rights of the child or children.

• If the parents decide to grant custody of their child to their grandparents. The courts will still need to make sure that this is in the best interests of the child, and this cannot happen automatically.

• If a child is placed under the care of social services, the grandparents can be given visitation rights.

This also applies to adopted children. Their biological grandparents can file a petition to visitation and guardianship rights in the state of New York. It is worth noting that some states do not allow this.

As with most legal cases, sufficient evidence, also called the Burden of Proof should be given. That is, the grandparent(s) should be able to prove that there are weighty issues warranting visitation or guardianship rights. Even when the parents of a child die, the grandparents must be found capable of taking care of the child better than the next best relative.

Before a grandparent can be granted visitation or guardianship rights to their grandchildren, the judge involved will consider the age of the children, the nurturing skills of the grandparents, the wishes of the child, the geographical location of both the child and their grandparent(s), the mental health of the child and their grandparent(s), and the relationship the grandparents have had with the child since their birth.

What Does the Law Say?

The Laws of New York state that if a child is placed under the care of an official of social services, the grandparents shall have visitation rights.

If both parents die, then the grandparents will be considered for guardianship if this is in the best interests of the child.

The grandparents are subject to laws requiring their physical and mental examination before guardianship is granted to them.

Once they are granted guardianship, they have a right to overrule any decision made by the parents or any other guardian of the child as long as it is in the best interest of the child or children.

Grandparents’ Guardianship: The Process

Whatever the reasons for a grandparent wanting custody or visitation, an official petition to the court has to be signed to start the process. This petition has to be signed in the county where the grandchild lives. All involved and interested parties such as their parents and other grandparents should be informed once the petition has been made. If you already have visitation rights and want to change them, your petition should be a change or modification order.

What a Lawyer Will Do for You

Your lawyer will handle the documentation for the petition and help you build up a case against the children’s’ parents or guardians if you want them to be proven unfit.

If the case goes to trial, then you will need a lawyer to defend your case.

The process of determining the guardianship of a child is not easy, and the best interests of the child come first. This is why it is best to work with a family law attorney for guidance.

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