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Grandparents Rights and Other Third Party Rights in Child Custody

This is one example of a custody case of a grandparent who raised her son's little girl & faced losing custody & visitation rights when mom came back into the picture.

When I talk about third-party rights in child custody cases this can mean grandparents rights, step-parents rights or the rights of the person who has really been deeply involved in a child's life to the extent they say that they have acted in the place of a parent to that child.

I have just finished a case that I've been involved with for several months where my client and her significant other raised a little girl for several years. For the majority of her life really, from the time she was 2 to almost 7. The reason she was raising that little girl because the mother of the child was having some serious problems with drugs and the father of the child who was my client's son was unavailable.

So at the request of the mother, my client took physical custody of the little girl and raised her pretty much as her own. She got her enrolled in kindergarten, she was there during the nights when the little girl was sick, she was nursing her to health, helped her with homework & got her involved in extracurricular activities.

Then out of nowhere last year Mom kind of appeared and decided she wanted her daughter back. So she took her daughter back from one day to the next literally and prevented my client, the grandmother from having a relationship with the child for over the next 8-months.

What my client decided to do was file for grandparents rights. These are some of the most difficult cases for judges because they have to balance a parent's right to make decisions about his or her own child vs somebody who's been very deeply involved with that child's life. It's a high standard that the third party has to meet in order to win grandparents rights.

That person who is standing in the place of a parent has to show how they've acted like a parent in that child's life and how it would be significantly detrimental for that child to be denied access to the person who acted in place of a parent. The burden is really high and I will tell you over my nearly 2 decades of doing family law work, I've handled several of these cases and I've had mixed results.

I've had people who went in front of a judge about the close relationship that they had with the child and the judge said too bad, so sad. A parent can parent a child any way he or she wants and if that parent doesn't want you to have any visitation, then that's the way it is.

Those are devastating results not only for the grandparents but especially for the children. Then I've had other cases which is the one I was just talking about where the judge looked at the situation and said Grandma pretty much raised this little girl and it's going to hurt this little girl and it's going to deny her of extra love and support if Grandma is not allowed to be in this little girl's life. So the judge gave my client visitation and my client was happy. It's not nearly enough because my client was used to having the little girl live with her but it's better than nothing and that easily could have happened.

What I want to ask you to do is that if you're involved in a grandparents rights case or any type of 3rd-party case of the visitation or custody of a child. I want you to think about what is really best for your child or the children. I can encourage you to put whatever your agenda is or your ego aside and think only about the child.

Because what a child wants and needs is love and a child can never have enough love. Just because there's more people involved in that child's life is not taking anything away from another person. It's only adding to that child's life. Now on the other hand if the involvement of a 3rd-party is going to add more drama, conflict and upheaval to a child's life then it might be in the best interest of a child to not have that third party involved.

But just like any case involving children, people need to try and put their differences aside and minimize the conflict that happens in front of the child because that is what serves the child best.