Can I Get Custody of My Grandchildren?
Pursuant to Colorado child custody statutes, specifically C.R.S. 14-10-123, non-parents can seek custody of a child in certain situations. Under Colorado law, “custody” is technically termed “parental responsibilities.” Non-parents includes grandparents, though just because they are relatives of the child and grandparents does not mean they are given any greater, preferential treatment as relates to whether they meet the legal standards set forth in Section 123 to seek custody.
Keep in mind that seeking custody of grandchildren is a completely different legal right or concept from petitioning a court for grandparent visitation pursuant to C.R.S. 19-1-117. Grandparents may seek parental responsibilities of a child if the child is either presently in their physical care or not in the care of either parent. The legal process can be started via either the filing of a brand new Colorado child custody case or moving to intervene into a divorce or custody case in which custody has already been allocated between the parents.
The other circumstance in which grandparents can seek custody would be one in which the child had been in their primary physical care for six months or more, had left their care, but less than six months had passed since that point.
The above stated examples are the only two instances in which a grandparent can seek custody. Denver child custody attorneys are often presented with situations in which grandparents will call believing they can seek custody when they believe their grandchildren are being abused or neglected. Unfortunately, those circumstances do not give rise to the legal standing to seek custody and the likely remedy may be to call the department of human services to intervene. If a “dependency and neglect” case is opened by the county, the grandparents could potentially also intervene to seek custody, or even temporary placement while the case is pending.
When seeking custody of grandchildren, one issue the grandparents need to keep in mind is that there are constitutional considerations at play tied into parents’ fundamental rights to raising their children. See Troxel v. Granville (2000). Colorado courts adhere to the notion that parents are best situated to care for children and must give deference to that notion unless the evidences supports, in a “clear and convincing” fashion, that it would be in the child’s best interest to be in the custody of the grandparents over a parent.
Another point of contention can arise tied into who actually had physical care of a child. In cases in which the child has just been left with the grandparents, the facts and evidence are clear. However, there are cases in which parent and child live in the grandparents’ home. Thus, the waters become muddied in terms of whose care the child is/was really in. When litigating these issues, outcomes will hinge on who was doing the cooking, bathing, nurturing, school duties, medical appointments, and really making the decisions related to a child. Proving who provides the financial support can also matter.
If you are a grandparent seeking custody of your grandchildren, or a parent facing a custody action filed by the grandparents, the Denver family law firm of Plog & Stein can help you. With over 60 combined years of family law experience, we understand what it takes to deal with these legal matters.