6 Tips When Grandparents Are Trying to Get Custody Over or Adopt Grandchildren or Another Child: What Are Your Rights?
As a grandparent, all you really want is to see your grandchild grow up happy, and you may feel like this requires you either getting custody over or adopting your grandchild. While there are situations where this may in fact be done peacefully; for example if your child got pregnant at an earlier age than when they were ready for the child, other situations may not be as straight forward. Here are the tips grandparents need to know about when either adopting or getting custody over their grandchild.
- Know the three legal options you can opt for in order to have broader legal protection.
Legal custody/guardianship, becoming a foster parent to your grandchild through your state, and adoption are probably the options you should look into the most. What you need to know about legal custody is that it may not be permanent. Also, unless the parent voluntarily gave up the parental rights of your grandchild, you will need to go and argue your case in court that the parent is not fit for the role. If you already have physical custody, it may be easier to also get legal custody too, although it varies across states. If you manage to get legal custody and the parent wants it back, you will end up going through the court system again, where the parent will need to prove that things have changed and they’re now in a position where they’re able to take care of their child.
The main difference between legal custody and guardianship is that the latter is usually granted in probate court, while with guardianship, you’ll still take care of your grandchild day-to-day. Although, in some states custody is basically the same thing as guardianship. Yes, they are in different courts but it really depends on the state. For example in VA you get custody, in FL you get guardianship. Depending on the state, the guardianship may in fact be more permanent. The best advice is to find out how your state deals with this situation before even beginning a custody or guardianship process.
Becoming a foster parent is option number two, to your grandchild through the state if the state has custody of the child first.
The last option is adoption, which is a permanent option, which strips the parents of any rights, thereby giving you all the rights a parent would have normally had. One advantage of adoption is in fact that it is permanent, as it creates a more stable setting for the child. Families may consider this option if, for example, the child comes at a point when the parent is very young, and the parent is not expected to get ready for the responsibilities that come along with getting a child.
Although the legal implications of raising your grandchild was probably not the first thing that came to your mind when you made the decision of stepping in and playing an even greater role in the life of your grandchild, this is in fact an aspect that must be closely considered because its implications. You may have physical custody, but if it wasn’t granted to you by a court, you actually do not have any rights when the decision about either health care or where your grandchild will end up going to school.
With a power of attorney, you may have the rights as a grandparent to decide upon the things that were specified in there, although it does not take away the rights of the parents, and you can lose it at any time, should the parent decide to do so. As a result, a power of attorney will only be something you get if the parent agrees to it.
When you’ve decided to adopt, no matter if it’s your grandchild or not, here are some tips that it may just be helpful to keep in mind.
- Consider the possibility of open adoption.
If the circumstances allow it, and you deem it possible, consider the possibility of an open adoption. It can be healthy for the child, and you may even be able to have the child establish a relationship with the parents. Being open to your adopted child about the history of the adoption can help strengthen the trust between you. Of course, it’s important to consider the needs of your child in the process.
While openness in adoption can be good, do consider the risk that something suddenly changes for one of the parts, which can be lack of support from the birth parent, that you may have formed a relationship with, or it could be that logistical things challenge the relationship you have created.
- Understand how to better use words to make your child feel loved.
Rather than saying the child was “given up”, you can use other terminology like “placed”. The former would make the child feel less loved than the latter. If you ever wonder how something is making your child feel, imagine that you were in their situation instead, and negative word usage can have unwanted consequences.
- When you adopt, make sure not to differentiate between your biological and adopted children.
You adopted for a reason, and there is no reason your adopted child should feel left out of the family, after all this person is now legally a part of your family. When you adopt someone who is not biologically related to you, it’s not unheard of that that child felt left out.
- Remember it’s not your story.
Although you may be tempted to tell every single detail of the story, remember that it is not your story to tell. As the child grows older, he will be able to tell the extend of the story that without feeling uncomfortable about being forced into sharing.
- Consider getting help from others that have gone through it already.
There will obviously be a lot of firsts in this whole process, and sometimes you may not necessarily know exactly how to behave. By talking things through with everyone involved, you’ll discover how everyone feels, and you’ll be less likely to make someone uncomfortable.