Can a Grandparent File for Emergency Custody?

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Summer Masterson-Goethals

Summer Masterson-Goethals
Consumer and family lawyer, former legal aid attorney and Missouri Bar Leadership Academy member, Springfield Business Journal 40 under 40 Honoree.

Summer Masterson Goethals

Can Grandparents File for Custody of a Grandchild?

Children are the future of a family and society, and their well-being is paramount. However, if a child’s parents have disregarded their care and are not ready to take care of the child, or if the child’s life is in danger, grandparents may take legal steps to protect them.

In such devastating situations, grandparents can file for emergency or temporary custody of the child.

If you’re in such a situation, you might want to establish an attorney-client relationship with a family law attorney. They can help if you’re considering obtaining legal custody, emergency custody, or guardianship.

Can Grandparents File for Custody of a Grandchild

When to File for Emergency Child Custody of a Grandchild

The foundation of custody orders in Missouri is ‘the best interests of the child.’ Therefore, although custody is often granted to one or both parents, the law is that the court can grant physical and legal custody to a third party in deserving cases.

Third-party here means any other person other than the actual parents of the child and includes grandparents.

Missouri law allows grandparents to obtain emergency or temporary custody or even full custody in certain situations.

  • Unfit parents: The court could grant emergency custody if the parents are unfit or unable to take custody of a minor child. This could include cases where the parents are involved in drug or alcohol abuse, where they are mentally incapacitated or serving jail time, or where the child is facing abandonment after a divorce.
When to File for Emergency Child Custody of a Grandchild
  • Child abuse and child neglect: The court would also grant emergency custody where the welfare and best interests of the child are being threatened. This could include high-risk situations such as where the child is being sexually abused or forced to live in an unsafe or unsanitary environment due to the inappropriate lifestyle of the parents.

In such cases, the kids or minor child is vulnerable and may be in immediate physical and emotional danger. Such conditions are toxic and can hinder the growth and development of the child and possibly threaten their well-being later in life.

In such situations, it might fall to the elders in the family to protect the innocent children and provide them with a healthy environment to thrive. Missouri law recognizes this fact, and if a court finds that both parents of a child are unfit or unsuitable as parents or unable to assume custody for any reason, the court may award custody, temporary or otherwise, to a relative of the child, and this includes grandparents.

So, as a grandparent, you do not have to stand by and watch your grandkids be abused or mistreated. The law allows for grandparent custody, and you can intervene where the parents are unfit or abusive. You can obtain temporary or full custody over the adoptive or biological parents, as well as grandparent visitation rights if need be.

How Can Grandparents Get Custody of Their Grandchildren?

Under normal circumstances, parental rights regarding the legal and physical custody of minor children are paramount. For grandparents to get custody of their grandkids, they would need to file a petition in court. They must also prove that the child’s parents are unfit or unable to care for the child.

For instance, if the parent(s) have abandoned the child for more than six months and have failed to provide child support, the grandparents may also be able to establish a case of child abandonment. Specific instances of neglect and abuse, such as incidents of domestic violence, would also need to be documented for the court’s records. 

In some cases, where parents leave their child in a grandparent’s home for a long duration without providing them with legal authority, the grandparent may bring the matter to court to obtain child custody.

On the other hand, you may also need to provide proof that you are healthy, fit, and financially strong enough to support the child.

Custody matters are typically contentious and involve a lot of legalities. Working with experienced child custody lawyers will offer you more chances of success with your intervention. 

Your conduct during a custody battle is of great importance and could affect your chances of success. Your attorney can guide you towards the proper way to conduct yourself during the proceedings. With a skilled attorney, you can speed up the process of taking care of your grandkids as you’ll be able to avoid mistakes that could be detrimental to your petition. 

How Can Grandparents Get Custody of Their Grandchildren

Transferring Custody of a Child to a Grandparent

In some cases, a parent knowing their incapacity may wish to voluntarily transfer custody of a minor child to the child’s grandparent(s). In such an instance, the parent would need to file a petition seeking the approval of the circuit court where the minor child resides before transferring custody.

If you’re a parent or grandparent in such a situation, it is a good idea to consult with family & divorce lawyers in Missouri that could ease things up for you. With professional legal help, you can rest easy knowing that the documentation you need to ensure the welfare of your child or grandchild is being taken care of by skilled attorneys. 

Alternatively, if an otherwise fit parent is physically unavailable to care for the child, perhaps due to travel or a busy schedule, the parent could apply to the probate court to appoint the grandparent(s) as a temporary guardian instead of transferring custody outrightly. An emergency guardianship would allow the grandparent to take care of the child in the parent’s absence.

Transferring Custody of a Child to a Grandparent

Filing for Emergency Custody of Your Grandchildren

If you find that your grandchild has been abandoned or is facing immediate harm, you can file a petition for emergency custody at the circuit court. The child’s well-being might depend on how fast you act, and getting a lawyer to help at this point is a good idea. Along with the petition, you might need to submit an affidavit showing evidence of the urgent and dangerous situation the child is faced with.

However, you should note that emergency orders are usually temporary with a stated duration. You might need to apply to the court for full custody of the child to make your custody rights more permanent.

So, dear grandparents, you can take positive steps today to ensure the welfare of your precious grandchildren.

Filing for Emergency Custody of Your Grandchildren