Custody Rights for Out of State Grandparents

By Mike Broemmel

Updated July 21, 2017

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As a grandparent that resides in a different state than your grandchildren, you possess custody rights in a limited set of situations, according to the American Bar Association Section of Family Law. A grandparent's rights to custody of grandchildren living in another state come into being when both parents die or are found incapable of properly caring for the grandchildren.


The primary consideration surrounding a grandparent's desire to exercise custodial rights over a grandchild is what is in the best interests of that child, according to Cornell University Law School. Included in the analysis of best interests is an examination of the preexisting relationship between the grandparent and grandchild.


Geography is an important consideration in regard to custody rights for an out-of-state grandparent. Courts usually are reluctant to permit a child to leave the jurisdiction of the court. Oftentimes, at least initially, the court requires the grandparent to relocate to the state where the child lives. Ultimately, the court may permit the grandchild to move out of state with the grandparent, after a custody award.


A common misconception is that an out-of-state grandparent is never able to obtain custody of a grandchild. Although there are complex issues to resolve, the location of a grandparent alone does not preclude him from seeking custody of a his grandchild.


A grandparent can seek both types of custody of a grandchild. Legal custody is the ability of the grandparent to make decisions for the grandchild. Residential custody is the right to provide that grandchild a home. These types of custody normally go hand in hand in the case of a grandparent and grandchild.

Expert Assistance

An out-of-state grandparent desiring to obtain custody of her grandchild represents a complicated legal matter. As a grandparent desiring to obtain custody of a grandchild in another state, seriously consider hiring a lawyer. The American Bar Association maintains resources to aid you in finding legal representation. This includes contact information for bar organizations both in your own state and in the state where the child resides.