I am the child’s grandparent, sibling or extended family member. Can I get custody or visitation of the child?
A non-parent such as a grandparent, sibling, aunt/uncle, step-parent, etc., generally cannot get custody of a child except for cases of abandonment, neglect, unfitness of both parents, or other extraordinary circumstances.1 See Who can get custody? for more information.
However, even if you cannot get custody, certain relatives (grandparents and siblings) may be able to get visitation. In order to get visitation as a grandparent, you must show that:
- visitation is in the best interest of the child; and
- either one or both of the child’s parents have died; or
- fairness requires that the judge intervene (get involved) and consider the matter of visitation.1
In order to get visitation as a sibling (or half-sibling), you must show that:
- fairness requires that the judge intervene (get involved) and consider the matter of visitation; and
- visitation is in the best interest of the child.2
A sibling (or half-sibling) can apply for visitation when s/he is separated from the sibling and contact between them is somehow being limited. This may happen when the parents are divorced or dead and the children are being raised by separate families who won’t permit visitation. This may also happen when an older adult sibling who resides out of the home is being denied access to younger siblings who still live in the family home, or where siblings or half-siblings have been placed in foster care and are separated or have been adopted into separate families.2
1 NY Dom Rel Law § 72(a); NY Fam Ct Act § 651(b); Bennett v. Jeffereys, 387 N.Y.S.2d 821, 40 N.Y.2d 543 (Court of Appeals 1976); see also the NYS Unified Court System website
2 NY Dom Rel Law § 71