What Happens When Grandparents Want Legal Custody?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | May 24, 2024 | 0 Comments

Sometimes, parents need a little help raising their children. This could be for multiple reasons, from substance dependency to mental health issues. And it's not uncommon for a parent to leave their children with a trusted family member – such as their own parents – while they get themselves back on track.  

What happens, though, when you're ready to “parent” again, but the child's grandparents aren't willing to cooperate? Can grandparents get legal custody in NJ?  

Well, it's a complex question, and the answer depends on various factors. Below, we'll explain whether grandparents can get legal custody and how we can help parents deal with custody issues.  

Do you have an urgent custody matter? You need the Lento Law Firm Team. Call now at 888.535.3686 or reach us online to start the process.  

Can Grandparents Get Child Custody? 

Yes. However, they don't have an automatic right to child custody just because they're a close relative. Under NJ law, grandparents only have the right to visitation, not custody.  

If grandparents want custody of their grandchildren, then they must take certain legal actions. This is the case whether a parent voluntarily or involuntarily surrendered your parental rights, or even if they simply agreed to leave their children with grandparents for a short time without giving up parental rights.  

When Do Courts Give Grandparents Child Custody? 

Courts award custody to anyone other than a child's parent(s), including grandparents, if they can show that: 

  • The parent is unfit to care for the child due to e.g., substance dependency. 
  • The parent abandoned the child or does not want to care for the child. 
  • It's in the child's best interests, physically and mentally, for custody to be granted to the petitioner. 

In other words, courts will weigh up numerous factors before deciding whether to give custody to grandparents. It's a complicated process, and our attorneys can guide you through it. 

Psychological Parents 

In New Jersey, there's also the doctrine of the “psychological” parent to consider. If grandparents can show that the parent intended for them to act as the child's parents, even temporarily, then they could be awarded custody. The case may be stronger if, for example, the grandparents supported the children financially and they lived together for a substantial period.  

This doesn't mean courts will automatically grant grandparents custody, though. They must still petition the court and prove such relationships and emotional ties exist first. Our lawyers can explain how you might counter such arguments.  

How Do I Get My Children Back? 

First, don't panic. To ensure you have the best chance of regaining child custody, you must handle this matter quickly but effectively. This is especially true if you're dealing with possible relinquishment of parental rights.  

The key point to bear in mind is that courts will always act in a child's best interests. Where possible, this means keeping the child with their parent(s). However, you'll be required to show that whatever issue you had – such as alcohol or substance abuse, depression or anxiety, or a similar issue – has been resolved. Unless you can demonstrate this to the court's satisfaction, your parents could be awarded custody.  

To prove you're ready to resume your parental role in your child's life, you need an experienced family law attorney to help you build a strong and compelling case. That's where the Lento Law Firm Family Law Team comes in. We will determine how best to prove that it's in a child's best interest to return to your custody based on the facts of your case. And we will walk alongside you at every stage of this emotionally debilitating time.  

You need the Lento Law Firm on your side. Don't leave anything to chance. Call now at 888.535.3686 or leave us an online message.  

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings! He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and protects their interests.


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Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience practicing Family Law in New Jersey. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Family Law Attorney Joseph Lento will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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