Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights in New York?
A grandparent’s rights to custody are a very complicated and emotional issue. It is understandable that if you are concerned about the wellbeing of your grandchild that you would wish to secure visitation, and in some cases, custody rights. New York State does not necessarily like to remove a child from the care of his/her parents; however, there are circumstances that may warrant an exception to this rule.
Grandparents’ Rights to Child Custody
In January 2004, the New York Domestic Relations Law was amended to grant custody rights to grandparents of a child living in New York State if they could demonstrate what is known as “extraordinary circumstances.” This is defined as:
- Prolonged separation of the child and the parent for at least 24 continuous months during which the parent voluntarily relinquishes care and control of the child who resided in their grandparents’ household.
The court could make exceptions for these circumstances where the prolonged separation was found to be less than 24 months based on other factors. To learn more about what other factors could sway this decision, it would be best to discuss the specifics of your case with an experienced attorney.
Can a Grandparent Take Custody of a Child?
A grandparent cannot simply take custody of a grandchild because he/she feels that it is appropriate to do so. If the child’s parents have died or their case falls under the extraordinary circumstances mentioned above, however, it is possible for a grandparent to petition for custody.
Grandparents’ Visitation Rights
The New York Domestic Relations Law §72 states that the grandparent(s) of a child whose parents are deceased, or in certain circumstances where the court must intervene, may apply to the New York Supreme Court or family court for visitation rights. It is important to note that the law does not state that grandparents have an automatic right to visitation. Instead, it allows grandparents to seek visitation as the court acknowledges that visits with a grandparent is often a previous part of a child’s life.
How to Make a Visitation Request to See a Grandchild
For the court to determine a petition for grandparent visitation the following must occur:
- Court must determine if the grandparent has a standing to petition for visitation rights based off the death of a parent or equitable circumstances
- Court needs to see how granting visitation rights to the grandparent would be in the best interests of the child
In general, the court will not get involved in child-parent relationships against a fit parent’s wishes. New York courts presume that a fit parent’s decisions are in the child’s best interests.
If you need assistance determining what your grandparents’ rights are in the State of New York, do not hesitate to contact our office online or call us at (516) 406-8381 to secure a consultation.