Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 10, 2020

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It is possible in certain circumstances for grandparents to become a child’s legal guardian and to obtain physical and legal custody of a child. As a general matter, though, in child custody cases grandparents’ rights are subordinate to parental rights. This means that in order for grandparents to get custody of a child, the biological parents must either agree to the custody arrangement or there must be a compelling reason it is best for the child to live with his grandparents instead of his parents. 

How to Get Custody of Your Grandchildren

Every state has slightly different laws for non-parental custody. However, as a general matter, if you wish to get custody of your grandchildren:

  • You should begin by filing a petition in the Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court in the county where the child lives.
  • Notice must be given to the parents of the hearing.
  • You will have to appear at a hearing.

If the biological parents do not show up at the child custody hearing, or assert their wish for custody at the hearing, the court will likely grant custody to you as long as you have proven that you have a strong relationship with the child (or children) and that it is in the best interests of the child to live with you. Likewise, if the parents sign off on custody or transfer it to you, the court will respect this.

If the parents assert their own claim to child custody, on the other hand, then the court will not necessarily award custody, or even visitation, to the grandparents. The court will look at whether either parent is able to provide a decent, safe, and stable home for the child. If one of the parents is able and willing to care for the child, that parent will be first in line regarding custody of the child and his or her rights will trump those of grandma and grandpa, even if grandma and grandpa have been raising the child for some time. 

Getting Help

If you would like to get custody of your grandkids, your best chance of success is to have a lawyer on your side that can assist you with your case.