If you are raising your grandchildren, or if you think it looks like that is a possibility in the near future, you need to understand the different custody options available to you as a grandparent. You also need to understand how your custody options affect both your rights and your grandchildren's parents' right. If you have any questions about your custody options, you need to consult with a family law attorney.
Option #1: Physical Custody
In this arrangement, your grandchildren are in your care because their parents have agreed to let them be with you. There is no court order that mandates that your grandchildren have to be in your custody.
In this arrangement, even though your grandchildren are living with you, you have no legal rights to make any decisions for your grandchildren, including school and medical decisions. If your grandchildren's parents sign over power of attorney to you, your custody is strengthened and you are able to make some medical and school decisions for your grandchildren.
Your grandchildren's parents still retain full legal rights over their children and have the power to terminate the power of attorney that they granted you. This arrangement works best if you have a positive relationship with your grandchildren's parents and are in agreement about you raising them.
Option #2: Legal Custody
Legal custody can be arranged and agreed upon between you and the parents of your grandchild and sanctioned through a legal agreement. The court system can also grant you legal custody, even without the consent of the parents, if they feel it is in the best interest of your grandchildren.
In this arrangement, you will have some legal authority to make day-to-day care decisions for your grandchildren. You may still not be able to make medical decisions for them; those will either have to go through their parents or their court appointed advocate.
Your grandchildren's parents will have the rights to visitations and may have to follow a formal visitation schedule, like in a divorce. In this arrangement, there is hope that the parents will eventually be in a position to regain custody of their children again at some point. They can even position the courts to regain custody in the future.
Option #3: Guardianship
This arrangement will grant you more rights over your grandchildren than a legal custody arrangement. You should be able to make most medical and school decisions for your grandchildren as well as day-to-day care decisions.
Once again, the parents of your grandchildren may be granted visitation rights and could potentially petition the court at some point to regain custody of their children. Guardianship is for grandparents who want long-term custody of their grandchildren and want to be sure they have the legal ground to make all decisions in relation to raising their grandchildren.
Option #4: Adoption
This is the most extreme of the custody arrangements you could have. If you choose to adopt your grandchildren, their parents are giving up all legal rights to their children, including visitation, and cannot ever petition for custody of their children again.
In this case, you would in the eyes of the law become your grandchildren's parents and would get to make all decisions related to their care, just like a normal parent would. If you want to ensure that you are able to permanently raise grandchildren, this is the option that allows for it.
If you are raising your grandchildren, it is important that you understand what decisions you can make for them and what rights their parents have to make decisions and see their children. If you are unsure what custody situation you are in or what custody arrangement you should aim for, talk to a family law attorney, such as Ivy Law Group PLLC, about your option.
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