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Do grandparents have legal custody rights in New York?

A recent article reminds us that legal custody awards might sometimes be made to individuals other than a child's biological parents. In some situations, for example, grandparents might also seek custody rights. However, a court will likely require some evidence of why a grandparent should be appointed as a guardian.

In New York, child custody laws generally comply with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. That approach can be useful when individuals in multiple states have made custody requests of a child. In addition, New York state law also recognizes grandparent visitation rights, as well as the possibility of grandparents being awarded joint custody.

As context, there are a variety of legal rights that grandparents can pursue under New York law. These options include custody rights, visitation and guardianship. Custody is the most significant legal obligation, where a court designates a grandparent as the child’s primary caregiver. However, there are lesser degrees available. In the case of guardianship, a grandparent may be given the legal right to make certain decisions for the child, often in designated areas of importance like the child’s health or education. Finally, a grandparent may also petition a court for visitation rights, to the extent that the child’s parents are otherwise refusing access to the grandchild.

As an attorney that focuses on divorce and family law, I understand the challenges that caregivers sometimes face in agreeing on a mutual arrangement for child custody and visitation. Ideally, caregivers will be able to reach a solution without forcing a court to apply the best interest of the child standard and resolve a custody dispute. However, I have also provided strong advocacy to clients seeking custody against the wishes of the other party.

Source:  Huffington Post, “Divorce, Grandparents, and the Rest of the Family,” Beth Cone Kramer, July 2, 2015

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