Connecticut Family Law 101: An Overview of Grandparents’ Rights to Child Custody

We believe that few things are as special, beautiful, or unique as the grandparent-grandchild bond. Many children claim that their relationship with Grandma and Grandpa has a certain wise and magical quality that has no equivalent in their relationship with their parents.

Unfortunately, life sometimes puts grandparents in the position where they want and/or need to become their grandchild’s primary caregiver. This is generally due to the unfitness, incompetency, or death of one or both parents.

Connecticut family law does not recognize grandparents as the automatic choice for guardian of their grandchild, but they can apply for custody like any other blood relative, and the courts consider the best interests of the child before accepting or denying the application.

Factors in Custody Decisions

The law presumes that a child’s best interests are served by letting him or her be raised and cared for by his or her parents. Under Connecticut law, a grandparent can prevail over this preference by proving the following:

  • They have, or have had, a parent-like relationship with the child
  • Leaving the child with the parents would be detrimental to their well-being

A ‘parent-like’ relationship is characterized by direct support and guidance. For example, if a child has lived for extended periods of time with his or her grandparents, it is a reasonable assumption that the latter took on a parental role by feeding, clothing, sheltering, and guiding them. Assuming this responsibility for a lengthy time in the child’s life will give Connecticut grandparents more legal rights to the child.

The second criteria refers to evidence that a child is in physical or emotional danger in his or her parent’s care. Examples include:

  • The parent is unable or unwilling to care for the child and the other parent can’t or won’t assume responsibility
  • The child’s basic needs for food, clothing, and medical care are being neglected
  • The child is being physically and/or sexually abused under his or her parent’s roof

Other family members, such as aunts, uncles, or adult siblings, may also seek custody under these conditions, but if a child’s grandparents have been primary caregivers in the past, a court may conclude that preserving the relationship is in the child’s best interests and grant custody to the grandparents.

Death of a Custodial Parent

If a custodial parent dies, courts prefer to place the child with his or her other parent, even if that individual has largely been absent from the child’s life. If this parent cannot be located or refuses to assume responsibility, a court’s second choice is usually a close blood relative. Grandparents are treated as good candidates if:

  • The child has lived with them for an extended period of time
  • The child has expressed a desire to live with his or her grandparents
  • The deceased parent named the grandparents as guardians in their will
  • The grandparents’ age, health, and financial stability do not prevent them from caring properly for their grandchild

We believe that grandparents can provide a safe, stable, and loving home for their grandchildren in instances where the parents cannot do so themselves. If you believe that assuming custody of your grandchild is in their best interests, let’s get you started today for a complementary case review. We look forward to hearing from you!