A child’s biological father and mother are no longer the only family members trying to obtain custody these days. Grandparents often seek to obtain custody of a grandchild based on numerous factors, and the courts have recognized their right to do so. Once grandparents have legal temporary or permanent custody, they will be able to enroll the child in school, obtain medical insurance, apply for state benefits and prevent the parents or any other individual from removing the child from their care in the absence of a court order.
Petition the court to obtain temporary relative custody of your grandchild if he lives in your home or if you have written consent from his parents, as long as the consent is notarized. Circumstances that would allow grandparents to obtain this form of custody include parents that are unable to properly raise the child as a result of alcohol or drug problems, serving a jail sentence, being unable to provide financially for the child, and so on. Speak with an attorney and set up a hearing. If the parents are disputing your petition, be prepared to offer proof that the child has in some way been neglected, abandoned or abused by the parents. Understand that if at any time the parents convince the judge that they are now fit to care for the child, then he may see fit to re-establish parental custody.
If you are in a situation in which the parents will agree to grant you custody of your grandchild, you can apply to be the child’s legal guardian. You must file a guardianship petition with the courts. If you are granted legal guardianship, you will remain the legal guardian unless the courts issue a dissolution of guardianship. The courts may decide to issue a dissolution if the parents come forth and petition to have the child returned to them. If you have been convicted of a felony or child abuse, you will not be eligible to obtain guardianship of your grandchild.
If you believe your grandchild is being abused or is going to be abused by his parents, your best bet to receive immediate intervention is to apply for dependency. Contact your local social services department and speak with the Department of Children and families. Explain the circumstances and request that they intervene and file a petition for dependency with the courts. During the investigation, the child will may be removed from the parents home and placed into temporary emergency custody. Although the courts will consider your request to have him stay with you during the investigation, understand that they may decide it is in the child’s best interest to be placed in the care of other relatives or in foster care. If you are not granted temporary custody of your grandchild, you may request to have a hearing with the judge to plead your case and continue to seek dependency.
To permanently adopt your grandchild, you will need to petition the court for custody and a court order must be issued. Circumstances that would allow you to adopt your grandchild include the death of the parents, consent of the parents, or termination of their parental rights. A legal adoption is best handled by an attorney, as it is a permanent custody arrangement and requires extensive legal work.
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