There may be several reasons why you are considering a petition for guardianship of your grandchild. Perhaps, the parents have just died or you suspect your grandchild is living in an unsafe environment. Regardless of the reason, without parental consent, getting guardianship of your grandchild is not an easy process. The legal process can be long, complicated and expensive. However, if you are committed to seeking legal guardianship of your grandchild, you do have a few options.
Seek the immediate assistance of a family law lawyer. Ask for a consultation. Explain the situation and inquire about your options. Contact your local state bar association for help in finding a family law lawyer.
Seek emergency custody through a temporary relative custody hearing. Petition your local family court for a temporary relative custody hearing. A family court judge will assign a time and date for a hearing where you can argue your case. This proceeding is especially common in situations where parents are unable to care for the child due to incarceration, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, mental instability, financial instability or military deployment. The court will only award custody to a grandparent in situations of abuse or neglect if there is proof of the abuse or neglect.
Apply for guardianship of the child through the family court system. This process is commonly done with the consent of one or both parents. A family court judge assesses the petition and decides what is in the best interest of the child. The court will not award guardianship to someone convicted of a felony or proven to have a history of child abuse or neglect. In situations where one or both parents are unable to show up in court to waive parental rights, notarized letters may be accepted in dire circumstances.
File a dependency action with the local Department of Child and Family Services or Social Welfare Services. A dependency action is a complaint of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Social workers investigate claims of child abuse to determine the validity of the claim. During this time, the child may be removed from the home and placed in the care of a relative. If abuse is determined, a family court judge, a social worker and the parents will convene to determine the future of the child. It may be decided that the child must be removed from the home for a long period of time until the parents are again deemed fit. During this time, you may petition for guardianship of the child. A judge will decide on the guardianship of the child.
Apply for legal adoption of your grandchild if you grandchild is a ward of the state. This is especially recommended in situations where the parents are dead or their parental rights have been terminated. Adoption is a permanent option, so be prepared to care for the child until the child reaches legal age. Contact your local social welfare services. Inquire about the adoption process as each state has a different procedure.