Can Grandparents be Awarded Custody of Grandchildren?

Can Grandparents be Awarded Custody of Grandchildren?

When it comes to awarding child custody in Colorado, family law courts recognize parental rights and always seek to place a child with a parent whenever possible, unless the health and welfare of a child is at substantial risk.

However, Colorado courts have also come to recognize the rights of grandparents and the vital roles they play in raising their grandchildren in many situations, particularly when a biological parent suffers from addiction or other mental health issues.

The most common mistake our Denver family law attorneys see grandparents make is waiting far too long to seek experienced legal advice. Too often, they rely on verbal agreements with their children, fail to document custody arrangements, fail to document the amount of time and money they are spending, and fail to document the real relationships they have built with grandchildren and the extent to which the children rely upon them to provide a caring home.

Grandparent Visitation Rights in Colorado

Grandparents do have legal rights to visitation, and a potential right to custody, under Colorado law.

To assert visitation rights, grandparents must establish “qualifying circumstances” and must file a motion with the court, which outlines the qualifying facts in an affidavit. As in parental responsibilities disagreements between parents, these facts are best documented as they occur with the help of an experienced family law attorney in Denver, so that they do not reach the court as mere allegations.

If a child’s parents are divorced, or are divorcing, and a court has issued orders regarding decision making and parenting time, a grandparent can apply for grandparent visitation rights. In such cases, the court can override the wishes of parents if the presumption that a parent is acting in their child’s best interests is overcome by clear and convincing evidence. However, the burden of proof is on the grandparents to show visitation is in the best interests of the child despite a parent’s objections.

Winning visitation will give grandparents the court-ordered right to see their grandchildren. But it does not award them the right to make childcare or other decisions on a grandchild’s behalf.

Grandparent Custody Rights in Colorado

Obtaining custody is more challenging. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the care, custody and control of a child is the constitutional right of parents.

However, in cases where a grandchild has lived with grandparents for six months or longer, grandparents can file an action that seeks the award of parental responsibility, provided such action is filed not later than six months from when the child leaves their care. Such an order may include parenting time and decision-making authority.

In cases where either parent objects, grandparents must present clear and convincing evidence that a proposed arrangement is in the best interests of a child. Again, making such a case to the court makes it critical that grandparents begin working with an experienced family law attorney in Denver long before seeking a court order. Courts are generally not willing to take parental responsibilities away from a parent and give them to a grandparent, except in cases where parents clearly cannot take care of their children.   For many well-meaning and well-intentioned grandparents, the best outcome is grandparent visitation.  To determine how to best protect a grandchild, work with an experienced family law attorney as soon as certain problems or issues surface.

Contact Denver Child Custody Lawyers, Littman Family Law and Mediation Services at 303-832-4200 for a confidential consultation.

Littman Family Law and Mediation Services

1772 Emerson Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303-832-4200
Fax: 303-832-9322
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