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Comprehensive Guide to Grandparents’ Custody Rights in Louisiana

Custody and visitation rights are known for being complicated– and that’s when you’re a parent. The entire process becomes even more complex if you are a relative (like a grandparent) of a child. You deserve to see your grandchild; your name doesn’t need to be on the birth certificate in order for you to spend time together.

Grandparents’ rights to their grandchildren are somewhat limited

It’s important to note that grandparents’ rights to their grandchildren are, generally speaking, limited. This is due in huge part to a ruling by the Supreme Court in 2000. The ruling reaffirmed parents’ fundamental right to make all decisions when it comes to the welfare of their children. This doesn’t mean that grandparents have no rights to their grandchildren– it just means that certain circumstances have to exist for a grandparent to obtain custody of a grandchild. 

I am a Grandparent Who Wants Legal Custody of My Grandchild in Louisiana

If you need legal custody because a child lives with you and you are trying to seek medical care or get them into school, it may be easy to get temporary custody very quickly. The child’s parent(s) must be living and must want you to take care of the grandchild. This is known as Provisional Custody by Mandate under Louisiana law. 

Provisional custody lasts for one year at a time. It can be renewed by the grandparents and parents of the child on an annual basis.

What if the parents are living and do not want me to have custody?

In this case, your only option is to sue for custody. A judge would make the final ruling decision about who gets custody of the child. Some examples of things that influence this decision include:

  • The mental and physical fitness of the grandparent and grandchild
  • The quality and length of the relationship between the grandchild and grandparent
  • The child’s living preferences (if they are old enough)
  • The grandparent’s willingness to maintain a relationship with the parent

What if the state obtains custody of a grandchild?

If the state obtains custody of a grandchild because of abuse or neglect, grandparents may request legal custody of their grandchild. It is state policy to attempt to place abused children with their relatives prior to placing them in foster care. 

What do I need to show a judge to get legal custody of my grandchild?

You’ll need to show a judge substantial evidence that parental custody will result in harm to the child. This usually translates to a very serious situation, like one that involves abuse or neglect. You also have to prove that living with you would be better for your grandchild than living with their parents. 

Protective Custody Orders for Immediate Relief

In some cases, a judge grants an immediate order of custody in order to facilitate emergency relief. If a grandchild’s parents are abusing him or her, a grandparent can file a protective order on the grandchild’s behalf. This opens the door for the grandparent to obtain temporary custody of the grandchild. 

If abuse is proven at a later hearing (within thirty days), the judge may further award custody to  the grandparents for 6-18 months.

Visitation vs. Custody

If grandparents desire parents to maintain custody of their grandchildren but still want a schedule of visitation (to ensure they can maintain contact with their grandchild), this is simpler. Grandparents have several options they can pursue to gain visitation rights when it comes to grandchildren. 

Visitation for Grandparents When a Parent is Imprisoned, Dead, or Incompetent

R.S. 9.344 states that grandparents can pursue visitation rights under certain circumstances. This statute is intended for grandparents who have lost their “normal avenue” of seeing a grandchild. The avenue is usually the parent of the grandchild.

If a grandparent wants to be considered for visitation rights, then the child’s parent must be declared one of these three:

  • Imprisoned
  • Dead
  • Incompetent

Visitation Rights Under Extraordinary Circumstances

Louisiana Civil Code Article 136 states that any blood relative of a child (including grandparents) can pursue reasonable visitation rights during an “extraordinary circumstance.” This term is intentionally vague– it can encompass a lot of different scenarios. It often refers to situations where a parent is abusing controlled dangerous substances. 

What if My Grandchild Has Been Adopted? Do I Still Have Visitation Rights?

Some biological grandchildren are adopted into other families. When this occurs, the biological grandparents may still have a right to visit their grandchild. This is generally only the case if the grandparent is the parent of a child’s deceased parent. Other circumstances include those in which the child’s parent has forfeited their right to reject adoption. 

A grandparent may also sue for visitation rights if their grandchild is placed in foster care by the state.

Can Grandparents Adopt Their Grandchildren?

Adoption is different from legal custody.

  • If grandparents receive legal custody of a grandchild, the parents still have a right to visit the grandchild; they are also obligated to financially support the grandchild
  • If grandparents adopt a grandchild, the parents’ rights are terminated

A grandparent can apply to adopt their grandchild if the parents voluntarily surrender their parental rights. If the parents do not want to voluntarily surrender their parental rights, grandparents can still apply to adopt their grandchildren if:

  • The adoption is in the best interest of the child 
  • The grandparent has maintained legal or physical custody of the grandchild for a minimum of six months before the adoption filing and granted custody and either…
    • The parents have failed to comply with a court order of support (without a just cause) for at least six months; or…
    • The parents have failed or refused to communicate, visit, or try to communicate with the grandchild (without just cause) for at least six months

Betsy A. Fischer, LLC: Family Law Services In Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish

Our team also handles cases in St. Tammany Parish, St. Charles Parish, and other surrounding areas

If you have questions about grandparents’ custody rights in Louisiana, our team may be able to help. Reach out to Betsy A. Fischer, LLC via the web or over the phone at 504-780-8232 today. We handle:

  • Divorce
  • Custody
  • Child support
  • Community property
  • Other family law matters

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