How can we get custody of our grandchild? 1 Answers as of January 19, 2011

My grandchild’s parents have drug problems. My wife and I want custody. We have a house and both steady jobs neither of them work or have a place. We need help please.

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Rice & Co., LPA | Kollin Rice
A grandparent, or pretty much anybody for that matter, can file a motion in the Juvenile Court of the county in which the child lives to seek custody. If the parents both consent, this is usually a pretty easy process. If they do not, you will need to prove that the parents are failing to provide adequate care for the children, and that it is in the child's best interest that you have custody. This is a fairly high hurdle. And if you attempt to battle your child over custody over your grandchildren, you are likely to further estrange them, and if you are unsuccessful, will likely find that your contact with your child and grandchildren will be greatly diminished, likely to everyone's detriment.

If you believe that your grandchildren's safety is in jeopardy or their needs are being severely neglected, you can anonymously report these concerns to the local Children's Services Board who will investigate, and, if they find the conditions warrant it, remove the children from the home. Should they remove the children, they will generally attempt to place the children with suitable relatives. If you make your interest known to the parents and the CSB and can provide a suitable environment for the children, and have an established relationship with them, it is very likely that the children will be placed with you. If the parents are still unable to get their lives together, this will likely become a permanent arrangement.

If you are going to take this route, I suggest that you:
1) Try to see the children as much as possible, and try to have them in your home as much as possible. Keep them over night as often as the parents let you. You can cast this as doing a favor to the parents by watching them. Even if this does not end up with strategic value, it allows the children to have a safe, healthy and stable environment.

2) Try to maintain a positive relationship with your child and the other parent. You don't want to give them money to support their habit or anything, but try not to condemn them, put them down, or fight with them. Instead, provide a healthy environment for their kids and babysitting option for them. Even people who are incapable of caring for their children and seem totally irresponsible as parents on some level want their kids to be safe and healthy. However, they may resent it when someone else provides for the children when they can't, so keep it low key so as not to impair that relationship. As I said originally, if the parents consent to you taking custody, this can be quick, easy and inexpensive.

3) Make sure your home is suitable. It is a selling point if you have separate bedrooms for the kids. It is almost a deal breaker if you do not have beds for the kids. Set up a guest room or two with beds for each kid. Eliminate any safety hazards in your home. (Firearms should be locked up and out of sight. Heating elements should not be a burn risk. Smoke detectors should be in place and functional in every bedroom and every floor of the house. If the kids are younger, appropriate booster seats or infant seats should be available or even in place in your car.) Keep your house neat, orderly, clean, and stocked with healthy food. Eliminate any unhealthy smells. However good your home may be right now, everybody has some room for improvement, and now would be the time.

If you implement the suggestions above, you will help your grandchildren and your child, whether or not you ultimately seek custody. If this is not sufficiently effective in remedying the problems, and the parents will not agree to custody, your chances of successfully obtaining custody are far better if CSB will oppose continued custody by the parents. I have seen very few times that a third party who does not already have possession of the children has successfully obtained custody over the objection of the parents without CSB involvement if not outright backing.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 1/19/2011
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