When determining child custody, the general "golden rule" is to consider and adhere to whatever is "in the best interest of the child." Judges and courts make custody and visitation decisions based entirely on that that rule.
Unfortunately, there are situations where neither parent is capable nor fit to care for his or her child. Such situations could include an incarcerated parent, a parent with drug addictions, or an abusive relationship with the child. In these situations, the courts consider the needs of the child, both physical and emotional wellbeing, in determining custody.
In such situations, the grandparents may file a petition to request custody from court. If it can be proven that a parent is neglectful or abusive towards his or her child, a grandparent may be granted custody.
Similar situations may arise during the process of a divorce, when grandparents attempt to seek visitation rights. If parents are unwilling to work with grandparents in granting visitation, it may be brought to a qualified professional mediator to make the decision.
In recent times, grandparent's rights have been received a renewed interest. Since the laws vary by state and are changing constantly, it may be wise to seek the advice of a legal professional familiar with the current laws. This may be helpful in obtaining child custody or visitation rights for grandparents.
If you believe your grandchild is not being properly cared for or is abused, or you are dealing with other family law issues, it is important to consider custodial rights for the child. The best interests of the child should always be the primary concern in any parental situation.
Source: Findlaw.com, "Factors Considered for Grandparent Visitation and Custody" accessed on April 7, 2015