Grandparent Adoption Laws
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What Custody Arrangements Are Available to Grandparents?
While grandparents don't exactly have a parenting rights in their grandchildren, they do have other options. If a grandparent wishes to have a more permanent parental arrangement for their grandchild, three common arrangements to consider are:
- Adoption: An adoption legally terminates the relationship between the previous parents and the child, and creates a new legal relationship between the child and adopting parent, in this case the grandparent. If the parents are still living, they relinquish all rights and responsibility for the child.
- Guardianship: Guardianship means a person is granted “authority” over the child by the natural parents. It does not involve significant changes in the child’s paperwork such as a name change. Guardianship is most often designated in a will and enforced when the parents pass away. However, guardianship may also arise through a court order.
- Custody: Custody is less of a parental arrangement, but rather a division of responsibilities and visitation rights between parents. Custody typically applies to situations involving divorce or legal separation. If a grandparent will be seeking any type of custody arrangement, they will need to petition the court to do so.
With respect to a permanent, parental relationship, adoption is the proper arrangement. Since an adoption severs the legal relationship between the child and previous parent, they will no longer be a “grandparent” for legal purposes, but instead viewed as the child’s actual parent.
What Are Some Common Reasons for Grandparent Adoption?
The main reason why a grandparent would adopt their grandchild is that the natural parents have become incapacitated or are deceased. In such cases it becomes favorable for a new parent-child relationship to be formed. Other common reasons are:
- Divorce of natural parents
- Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment by a parent
- Incarceration of supporting parent
- Systemic unemployment or financial incapacity of parent
Are There Different Types of Adoption Available?
Yes, some different types of adoption are:
- Kinship Adoptions: Adoption by a family member or relative. Grandparent adoption falls into this category.
- Closed Adoption: Does not provide for contact between the child and previous parents.
- Semi-Open Adoption: The previous family has some communication with the child.
- Open Adoption: Allows contact but not enforceable by law in some situations. May become “open” or “semi-open” at any time.
The adoption process usually involves filing a petition in court, giving notice to the parents (if they are available), and attending a hearing where a judge finalizes the adoption decision.
As a Grandparent, Is Adoption Right for Me and My Grandchild?
- Grandparents are preferred over other adopting parties, especially where there is an existing emotional bond. Adoption simply makes that existing parental relationship legal.
- Grandparents will likely not be required to go through an adoption agency. This significantly reduces costs.
- The child would not have to adjust to drastic changes in family members and social contacts.
- Adoption is permanent, final and decisive. It involves erasure of the child’s previous parental history.
- It is more expensive than other options, such as guardianship.
- Adoption may disallow contact with previous parents.
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Last Modified: 07-15-2014 08:02 AM PDT
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