Grandparents and Child Custody

Certain circumstances may cause a parent to be unable or unwilling to take proper care of his or her children. When this happens, grandparents often step forward to provide the care and support their grandchildren need. However, grandparents that desire full or partial legal custody of their grandchildren may find themselves fighting an uphill battle.

Natural parents have fundamental rights to be with their children. In order to infringe on a parent’s rights to his or her children, a grandparent must present a compelling argument to support his or her request for custody. Grandparents must have “clear and convincing” evidence that parental custody is not in the best interest of the child.

Can Grandparents Get Child Custody in a Denver Divorce?

There are only a few circumstances in which a grandparent may be given physical and/or legal custody of his or her grandchildren. If a custody case for the child has been filed, grandparents and other third parties are allowed to throw their proverbial hats into the ring. Grandparents may be able to obtain temporary custody of their grandchildren if the parents’ divorce is particularly hostile or volatile. Other situations when a grandparent may request custody of a grandchild include:

  • If a child has been removed from his parents’ home and placed in foster care, grandparents are given priority preference to take physical care of the child, if they are able and willing to do so. (If parents are unmarried or divorced, the child’s other parent has preferential status.)
  • If the grandparent has provided primary care and physical residence for the grandchild for at least six months, the grandparent may request legal responsibility of the child.
  • If the child lived with the grandparent(s) for at least six months, and has been out of their care for no more than six months, the grandparents can ask the court for legal responsibility of the child.
  • If the child is currently in the physical care of someone that is not the child’s parent.

Unlike parents, grandparents have no automatic custody or visitation rights. They must demonstrate to the court that granting these rights would be in the best interest of the child. To determine what is in the child’s best interest, the judge will consider the physical and emotional health, environmental stability, and child’s relationship with each interested party, as well as any reports of child abuse or neglect.

Grandparent Visitation and Colorado Grandparent Custody Laws

If the court finds granting custody to the child’s grandparents is inappropriate, the judge may still decide to grant visitation rights. In Colorado, a grandparent may be allowed legal visitation rights if:

  • the child’s parents are granted a divorce, annulment, or legal separation;
  • legal custody of the child is granted to someone other than his or her parents; or
  • the child’s parent is deceased.

As always, visitation and custody rights are only granted if they are in the best interest of the child.

Call a Denver Grandparent Custody Lawyer

Divorce Matters is a full-service family law firm with locations in Greenwood Village and Lakewood. Contact us to request a consultation.