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New York Child Custody Laws: When Can a Grandparent Take Custody?

Parents have a fundamental right to their child. In fact, in the 2002 case of Troxel v. Granville the Supreme Court of the United States made it clear that parents have a constitutional right to care for and control their children. Yet, New York state law also recognizes that there are circumstances in which a parent may not be fit to protect the best interests of their child.

When this type of assessment is made, one of the child’s grandparents may be able to step in and take temporary or permanent custody of the kid. Here, our experienced Syracuse grandparents' rights attorney discusses what a grandparent needs to prove to assert child custody rights under New York law.

There Must Be Extraordinary Circumstances

 A grandparent can only overcome a parent’s constitutional right to have custody of their own children in a very limited set of circumstances. The New York Court of Appeals decided this in the

1976 case of Bennett v. Jeffreys. Before a grandparent can even make a child custody claim, they must be able to prove extraordinary circumstances. When that element is satisfied, a grandparent will have the legal standing to bring a child custody case before a family law court. Some examples of what qualifies as an extraordinary circumstance in New York include the following:

  • Parental abandonment;
  • Parental surrender of custody rights
  • Child abuse;
  • Severe neglect; and
  • Parental unfitness.

If a grandparent can prove that extraordinary circumstances are present, then a New York family law court can review the case in more detail, in order to determine what type of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child going forward. Ultimately, New York family courts have considerable authority to take action to protect the health and wellbeing of children in the state. Still, these cases are amongst the most complex types of custody claims. If you are a grandparent involved in this type of custody dispute, it is imperative that you seek immediate legal assistance from a qualified attorney.

Do You Need Child Custody Advice in Central New York?

We can help. At the Bombardo Law Office, P.C., our compassionate family law team has extensive experience handling all aspects of child custody cases. To set up a fully confidential review of your case, please call us today at (315) 488 5544. We promise to return all calls promptly. Our firm is based in Syracuse and we serve communities throughout the region, including in Onondaga County and Cortland County.

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