Under Kansas adoption law, relatives of either birth parent may legally adopt the child under certain circumstances. This special adoption category is known as "kinship" adoption and specifically includes grandparents among the relatives potentially eligible to adopt. There are several legal requirements that grandparents must consider in pursuing grandparent adoption in Kansas. In particular, grandparent adoptions can be processed either with consent of the birth parent(s) or based upon the parents' abandonment of their parental responsibilities.
Grandparent Kinship Care
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Under Kansas law, a "kinship caregiver" is any adult closely related to the child and caring for the child in place of the parent. Grandparents are the most frequent kinship caregivers. Most often, grandparents assume the role of primary caregivers when the parents will not care for the child because of illness or death, substance abuse, abuse and neglect, economic hardship, or unwillingness. Due to the prevalence of this situation, Kansas lawmakers have developed legal support procedures for grandparents caring for their grandchildren in the state, including a special grandparent kinship adoption process.
Procedures for Grandparent Adoption
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Kansas grandparent kinship adoptions are permanent legal arrangements. When grandparents adopt, all of the birth parents' rights and responsibilities are eternally severed and assumed by the grandparents. However, despite this parallel outcome, grandparent adoptions are far less procedurally complicated and normally less expensive to accomplish. Like all states, Kansas gives preference to kinship caregivers like grandparents in adoption placements if the placement is otherwise suitable. Adoption simply makes legal an existing parent-child type relationship. Grandparents also do not have to go through adoption agences, which significantly reduces costs.
The Kansas grandparent adoption process first requires the grandparents to file a petition for adoption in court. Then, the biological parents (if living) must legally terminate their parental status. However, if either parent refuses consent or opposes the adoption, the grandparents can still successfully adopt; the court will hold a hearing at which the grandparents may present evidence that the parents are absent from the child's life (or otherwise unfit) and the resulting benefit to the child from the grandparent adoption. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will finalize the adoption decision if she deems it in the child's best interests.
Benefits of Grandparent Kinship Adoption
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By legally adopting their grandchild, grandparents can more effectively manage the legal, ethical and economical dilemmas involved in kinship caregiving, and provide a more stable home life. Adoption removes legal obstacles to a grandparent's authority to act on behalf of the child; for legal purposes, the adoptive grandparent is now considered the child's parent, and the biological parents cannot interfere with the grandparents' child-rearing decisions. Thus, adoption ends the troublesome prospect of an absent parent dropping back into and complicating the child's life. Adoption can also be a financially beneficial approach for grandparent kinship caregivers. Because grandparent adoptions qualify for the Federal Adoption Tax Credit, any legal fees or court costs incurred can often be fully recouped when the grandparent's tax return is filed.