In today’s world of modern families, it’s not unusual for grandparents to seek their own rights regarding their grandchildren. This is a well-established statutory ability for grandparents (or great-grandparents). With this ability, grandparents “seek a court order granting them reasonable grandchild or great-grandchild visitation rights.” However, the implementation of these rights can only be done when the custody of children becomes an issue before the Courts. Examples of appropriate circumstances would include divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities (custody), and the death of a parent. In some cases, the State steps in to remove the children from the parents for neglect or abuse of the children which act as a situational qualifier. It is important to understand that outside of these circumstances, grandparents do not have the ability or standing to request implementation of grandparental rights. Absent such circumstances, parents have the right to provide visitation with grandparents as they see fit.
It is crucial to understand that while grandparental rights allow for visitation with the minor children, it does not put grandparents on the same footing as parents. Grandparents’ rights do not supersede those of fit parents. Grandparents rights are generally limited to visitation and do not include decision-making authority or other rights regarding the children. However, grandparents’ rights are often essential to safeguarding grandparents’ ability to continue a relationship with grandchildren after a divorce or custody case.
When children are taken from the home due to abuse or neglect, grandparents often want to step in to help. Grandparents not only want to help their grandchildren, but their children, too. Grandparents are allowed to contact the agency (usually the Department of Human Services or the Police) and request that the children be placed with them on a temporary basis. This type of responsibility is only allowed if they’ve formally requested visitation rights. If it is determined to be in the best interest of the children, placement may be made with the grandparents on a temporary basis[i]. Again, it is strongly advised that if you find yourself in such a position that you contact an attorney immediately.
Under most circumstances, the intention of the State is to reunite the children with their parents. However, that is not always possible. If the State determines that the relationship between parents and children must be terminated, changes must be made. The State will be required to place the children with a guardian or find some other means of placement. It is generally preferred that 1) siblings remain together and 2) the children are placed with family members. What’s important to understand is that just because family members are available does not require the State to place the children with them. All decisions regarding additional placement will adhere to the best interests of the children
Family members must request that children are placed with them within 20 days of the termination of a parent-child relationship. The parent(s) submit to a thorough review to determine if such placement is in the best interest of the children. This may be very invasive,[ii] but is meant to determine what placement is in the best interest of the children. This may mean that even though family members are available, the children could be permanently placed outside the family.
Dealing with these cases is often very stressful and the placement of children can cause conflict. These transitions can have a profound effect on the relationship grandparents and other family members have with the children. Children have the potential to be placed with other grandparents, family members, or outside of the family. Such adoptions may serve to terminate grandparental rights even if those rights have been previously granted as stated above[iii] In any case, it is imperative to assert rights regarding grandchildren and grandparents’ rights vigorously in the event of Dependency and Neglect[iv]. Our experienced lawyers are available to help you with your family law case, please contact us today for a free consultation.
[i] C.R.S. 19-3-403(1)
[ii] C.R.S. 19-3-605(3)
[iii] People in Interest of N.S., 821 P.2d 931 (Colo. App. 1991).
[iv] People in Interest of J.W.W., 936 P.2d 599 (Colo. App. 1997).
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