've been getting a lot of calls from grandparents who either want to get custody of their grandchildren, or want to get grandparenting time. Both of these issues stem from the fact that more and more, grandparents are playing an integral part in their grandchild(ren)'s lives, quite often, actually raising their grandchild(ren).
It is important to know, that grandparents have very limited rights where their grandchildren are concerned. Today I will talk a little bit about getting "custody". Basically, grandparents do not have standing to get custody of their grandchild(ren). Only parents do. There is an exception to this if the grandparent is already the legal guardian, having gotten guardianship over the minor child through the Probate Court. Once the grandparent has established a guardianship, then, and only then, may they file a complaint in family court for custody. This is still an uphill battle, especially if the parents do not want the grandparents to have custody.
It is not easy to get a guardianship. The parents must have left the child(ren) with the grandparents, without the grandparents having any legal authority to have the grandchild(ren) enrolled in school or medically treated. Then, and only then, may the grandparent petition for guardianship in Probate Court. The parents must be notified of this hearing and have the ability to appear and to contest the guardianship. Once the guardianship is established with the grandparents the parents may still file a petition to terminate or modify the guardianship. If the Court found that it was in the child(ren)'s best interest to establish the guardianship to begin with (say due to abandonment, drug use, incarceration), the parents will have to satisfy the Court that they are able to take care of the children before the Court will terminate the guardianship. Be advised though, it is the Court's duty to reunite the child(ren) with the natural parents. The law has determined that it is in the children's best interests to be with the parents. I've seen grandparents raise their grandchild(ren) from infants to five years old, only to have a parent reappear and the Court terminate the guardianship.
While none of this is easy, there are certainly those situations where grandparents have no other option and must petition the Court for guardianship. And there are certainly times after the guardianship has been established that a Complaint for Custody is warranted, and even maybe a petition for adoption. Each set of circumstances is different and you should consult a lawyer before deciding what is right in your particular situation.