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Grandparents Receiving Child Custody in California

When you see your loved ones in trouble, you naturally want to step in and help. Unfortunately, there may be legal barriers to doing so.

This is often the case for grandparents who must take custody of their grandchildren. Gaining legal authority is not as simple as moving the kids into your home. You must also receive the right to make decisions for them regarding their health, education, and so on.

In this article, we will broadly discuss the topic of grandparent custody and help you decide which path is best for you.

Blood Is Not Enough

When a child must leave the care of their legal parents, they aren’t simply handed over to the next of kin. Technically, the court could give custody to anyone it deems fit for the position. An old family friend, for instance, could care for the kids. The court could even give the children to a professional guardian, someone who is a stranger to the family.

To receive child custody, you must prove that staying with you is in the child’s best interests. You must build an argument in your favor, the same as you would in any courtroom scenario. Your attorney will help you gather evidence, witnesses, and so on to prove that you are the best candidate for child custody.

Fortunately, as a grandparent, you may have an advantage in this area. The children may have a good relationship with you, and they can let the court know that they prefer to be with you. Actions like these will go a long way toward getting the court to favor you as a custodian.

In Loco Parentis

People who are close to children can file for custody, using a process called “in loco parentis.” Loosely, this phrase is Latin for “in place of the parents.”

In California, in loco parentis works only when the petitioner is in the same jurisdiction as the child. The request must acknowledge everyone involved in the child’s life, including legal parents or guardians.

Gaining in loco parentis requires proving the following:

  • Being with the requestor is in the child’s best interests.
  • If the child is placed elsewhere, they will suffer as a result.
  • The requestor has a relationship with the child that is long-term.
  • The child’s parents are not married, are separated, or have died.
  • The requestor can provide for the child both financially and as a quality parent.

Unfit Parents

Sometimes, you must get involved to remove a child from a dangerous environment. Examples include abuse, substance addiction, and so forth. If parents pose a direct risk to their children, they are legally “unfit.”

To remove a child from an unfit parent, you must make a case in court. You need strong evidence to prove your claims, which makes the process look like a trial. Witnesses, documentation, and other proof will help, so make sure you work closely with your attorney to build your argument.

The court can give another chance to parents who truly want to do better. In California, Child Welfare Services can create a plan for these parents. The organization will work closely with the adult, helping them overcome struggles and build a healthy environment for their children. Parents who successfully pass this plan can regain their rights.


Guardianship is a form of legal child custody. Legal custody includes decision-making authority over education, healthcare, and so on.

Parents can sign guardianship over to a grandparent when needed. Each legal parent must consent to guardianship, or the grandparent cannot take custody.

When the court removes children from an unsafe environment, it must give guardianship to a capable adult. Grandparents who want custody in this situation must plead to the courts. Again, they must demonstrate that they are the best option for the kids.

All third-party child custody options are complicated, regardless of whether the adult is related to the child. As a grandparent with a close relationship with the child, you have a strong case to take custody when needed. Work closely with your attorney, and you may be able to help protect and raise your grandchildren in a healthy, productive environment.

Our firm is here to help grandparents who need to secure child custody. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us now at (916) 299-3936.