In cases where a child’s parents are unable to care for them, can grandparents get custody? If so, what is the process, and why do grandparents need an attorney? Continue reading to learn more.
In Oklahoma, grandparents have rights regarding their grandchildren under certain circumstances. A grandparent’s right to visitation of an unmarried minor child is granted only as authorized and provided by the court order.
Circumstances Under Which Grandparents Can Seek Custody
Grandparents may seek custody in cases involving divorce, abuse, or neglect from one or both biological parents. Another circumstance might be when the biological or adoptive parents cannot provide a safe and stable living environment for the child.
Grandparents can petition for custody of their grandchildren if:
- The parents are deemed unfit or pose a danger to the child's well-being.
- The parents have abandoned the child.
- The child has lived with the grandparents for at least six months, and a change of custody is in the child's best interest.
- The child's parents are divorced, and the grandparents have established a meaningful relationship with the grandchild.
- The parents have passed away.
The Best Interests of the Child
Oklahoma law places a strong emphasis on the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. Courts consider various factors, including:
- The child's emotional and physical needs.
- The child's age and dependence on home, school, and community.
- The ability of each party to provide a stable home environment.
- The mental and physical health of the parties involved.
- Any history of domestic abuse or criminal activity.
Grandparents' Visitation Rights
In addition to seeking custody, OK law also provides for grandparents' visitation rights. Title 43, Section 112.3 allows grandparents to request visitation with their grandchildren if certain criteria are met, including those mentioned in previous sections.
Factors Considered by The Court
When deciding on a custody case, the court considers several factors. The primary focus is always the best interest of the child, which includes the stability and safety of the living environment offered by the grandparents, the relationship between the grandchild and the grandparents, and the ability – or inability – of both biological parents to properly care for their child.
Relevant Case Law
Title 43 of the Oklahoma Statutes, Section 109, outlines the conditions under which grandparents can petition for custody. This section emphasizes that the court must consider the child’s best interests as the primary factor in custody determinations.
In the case of H.H.J. v. K.T.J., the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a grandparent seeking custody must demonstrate that the parent-child relationship would be detrimental to the child's well-being. The court affirmed that the child’s best interests must guide custody decisions and that grandparents have the burden of proving their case.
Procedures for Filing a Custody Claim
To file a custody claim, grandparents must first meet the eligibility criteria set by the state. Once eligibility is confirmed, the grandparents can file a petition with their district court. This process often involves complex legal paperwork and procedures, so it is highly recommended to seek legal advice.
Preparing for a Custody Hearing
Preparation is key in custody hearings. Grandparents should gather all relevant documentation, such as records showing their relationship with the grandchild, evidence of the child's living conditions, and any other information that supports their case. Legal representation is strongly advised to navigate the legal complexities of such a process.
Remember, each case is unique, and some circumstances could significantly affect the outcome. That is why it is crucial to consult with a legal professional to ensure the best possible strategy is employed.
In Oklahoma, grandparents can seek custody of their grandchildren under specific circumstances, all of which revolve around the child's best interests. Courts carefully consider factors that impact the child's well-being and strive to maintain stability and a nurturing environment.
Grandparents seeking custody should be prepared to present a compelling case demonstrating their ability to provide a safe and loving home for their grandchildren. Navigating the legal process can be complex, but with legal support, grandparents can play a significant role in their grandchildren's lives.
If you are a grandparent seeking custody, contact Nichols Dixon PLLC. Our experienced legal team can provide counsel and support.