Grandparents may get temporary custody of grandchildren by going through a process of submitting an application and receiving legal approval, typically accomplished through at least one court hearing. The specifics of temporary custody of grandchildren vary among states since the issue of custodianship falls within the domain of state power as opposed to federal power. Receiving temporary custody allows grandparents to have the rights to care for grandchildren when children would otherwise not have legal guardians or be in unsafe situations.
In the United States, probate courts award grandparents immediate custody of minors (children under the age of 18) when other relatives and caregivers give the children to grandparents. Families attend court hearings in probate courts, which typically grant emergency custodian rights to grandparents, then set a second follow-up hearing in a given number of days.
For less urgent situations, grandparents follow a formal application process to submit a request asking for guardianship of grandchildren. Grandparents send completed applications to probate courts, which then usually schedule hearings within one month to determine whether or not to give grandparents the right to become guardians. While waiting for a hearing, grandparents usually speak with social workers. Social workers evaluate situations on a case-by-case basis, and may spend time with children and grandparents to make sure arrangements meet both needs.