Nowadays, more and more grandparents find themselves in a situation where they need to care for their grandchildren. The reasons are various, whether due to parents who are unwilling or unable to parent or the sudden passing of a child's parents. However, there are just as many grandparents who want to spend more time with their grandchildren, but this valuable time is being threatened. This most often occurs when a child's parents get a divorce, with one parent being granted sole custody.
However, restricting grandparent access to a child can cause emotional harm to a child, especially when the relationship between a grandparent and the child was strong prior to the restriction. In these instances, it may be possible for a grandparent to protect his or her visitation rights. In order to do so, the grandparent must intervene in a pending divorce case and convince a judge that extraordinary circumstances exist justifying the visitation. Here, a judge will look at the length of the relationship, its quality and whether the grandparent can provide some sort of guidance and support that the child's parents cannot.
For some Louisiana grandparents, though, mere visitation isn't enough. When they believe that neither parent is capable of adequately caring for the child, they can intervene and ask the court to grant them custody. The chances of succeeding in these situations depends on the circumstances, but a judge must be convinced that granting custody to one of the child's parents would result in substantial harm.
It is important to note two things. First, grandparents can seek to obtain visitation rights even if there is no pending divorce matter. Second, simply because a grandparent's home may be a better place for the child does not mean that a court will find that it is the appropriate home for the child. Parents have the strongest rights to a child, so those seeking to go against those rights need to be prepared to present strong legal arguments.
Source: Louisiana.gov, "Louisiana Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Guide," accessed on Jan. 27, 2017