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Grandparents’ Rights and Custody Issues


Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren face many practical, legal issues. Grandchildren who live with grandparents for periods of time are impacted on by a variety of the laws in the State of New York. Issues involving custody, visitation with the parents, who has custody of the grandchildren long term, where the grandchildren go to school, medical insurance for the grandchildren, child support issues between the parents and the grandparents are just some of the legal issues grandparents face. Is a grandparent authorized to make medical decisions for a grandchild?

Limitations Placed on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren do not necessarily have a legal right to make decisions involving a variety of issues concerning the health and general welfare of their grandchildren. For a grandparent to have legal authority over a grandchild the grandparent must obtain a court order. Physical custody is not the same as legal custody. If the children simply live with the grandparents they have what is commonly referred to as physical custody. However, the fact the grandchildren reside with the grandparents does not give them legal rights to make decisions regarding the grandchildren’s health care and school issues. Grandparents must bring a case in the Family Court to obtain temporary custody of their grandchildren. This will put them in a position where they can make decisions involving significant issues for their grandchildren. When a court grants a grandparent legal custody the grandparents then have legal authority to make decisions concerning the health and general welfare of the grandchildren.

Temporary Power of Attorney

In situations where the parents are cooperating, a temporary power of attorney can be given by the parent to the grandparents. This temporary power of attorney would give the grandparents temporary authority to make specifically delineated decisions on behalf of the grandchildren. The temporary power of attorney gives the grandparents specific legal rights that are clearly enunciated in the power of attorney. An example of these types of provisions may involve a grandchild travelling with a grandparent to another state or country and the grandparent is given authority during this trip to make medical decisions for their grandchildren. It should be noted the power of attorney can be revoked by the parents and has no impact on the legal rights of the parents to maintain custody of their children.


Adoption is a permanent route for grandparents to exercise both parental rights and responsibilities over a grandchild. In essence, once the grandparents adopt the grandchild the grandparents now become the parents of the grandchild. Adoptions by a grandparent can be on consent of the parent or can be done in situations where the parents don’t consent but they have been found to be unfit, incapable or have deserted their children.


Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has been working for grandparents’ rights with regard to issues concerning custody and visitation of their grandchildren for more than 3 decades. He can be reached at 800-344-6431 or e-mailed at

VIDEO: Getting Custody for Grandparents

Elliot discusses getting custody for Grandparents.

Custody for Grandparents

Portrait of grandparents with grandaughter

There are a variety of reasons why grandparents might seek custody of their grandchildren. The parents of the children may be ill or drug addicts. The parents may be good parents who have become incapacitated. Sometimes the parents of children are simply incapable of meeting the demands and requirements of raising young children. The parents may be neglectful, abusive, too drunk or too addicted to drugs to appropriately care for their children.

Obtaining Custody

Grandparents can bring custody cases in the Family Court located in the County where the grandchildren reside. The application from the grandparents must show the custodial parents are unfit or incapable meeting the children’s needs. The grandparents in addition must show it is in the children’s best interests for the grandparents to be given temporary custody of their grandchildren. The court will specifically look at evidence of child abuse, neglect or addiction during the course of the proceedings brought by the grandparents.

Temporary Custody

The initial proceeding is always for temporary custody. The reason why the custody is temporary is the parents’ situation may be subject to change. If they are ill and through Elliot Schlisseltreatment they recuperate, they may thereafter become capable of taking care of their children. If they have a drug or alcohol addiction they may go through therapy and down the road recover to the point where they are no longer addicted and they are able to take care of their children.

Permanent Custody

After the grandparents obtain temporary custody the courts will do a follow-up to see how the children are doing in the grandparents’ custody. Unless the parents give up their rights permanently or a court order is entered permanently removing the parental rights of the parents, the parents can come back to court and make a presentation that they have been rehabilitated and seek to have custody of their children returned to them.

Elliot S. Schlissel and his associates represent grandparents in grandparents’ custody cases throughout the Metropolitan New York area.

Valley Stream, Lynbrook, Baldwin, Malverne, Freeport, Oceanside, Long Beach, Elmont, Lakeview, West Hempstead, Hempstead, Merrick, Bellmore

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