Legal Challenges for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

Doctor Talking to a Patient

“As opiate addiction has ravaged our communities, children are often left in the lurch, and grandparents and others trying to help are blocked by red tape.”

Opioid addictions devastate families and the impact has begun to show itself in estate planning law firms. To help grandparents cut through the red tape to help their grandchildren, an attorney from the Southern Ohio Legal Services recently presented an overview of what grandparents can do, according to the Chillicothe Gazette in the article “Need to help care for grandchildren? Here are some legal tips.”

Depending on the state and the circumstances, these steps may also be useful for others seeking to help young children in their families:

Visitation rights: Grandparents can file to get visitation with their grandchildren in most states. The court will determine whether it is in the best interest of the child.

Grandparent power of attorney: In most states, this requires the consent of the parent. However, it is a means by which grandparents can legally perform certain actions for their grandchildren, such as getting medical treatment or enrolling them in school. Parents have the right to revoke this at any time, although it is a faster process than other options.

Caretaker authorization: If the parent has left the children and no one knows where they are, but legal authorization like seeking medical treatment or interacting with the school is needed, a caretaker authorization can be granted by the court. The parent can revoke this at any time. However, in some situations, grandparents might be able to delay the parent taking the kids for up to two weeks. This delay also requires filing for custody.

Kinship placement: When children are removed from the care of their parents, courts and agencies often look to a relative for emergency placement. If grandparents can agree to a longer placement, a background check and a class may be the next step for evaluation. If approved, Child Services will retain legal custody, but you have the right to care for your grandchild in the meantime.

Custody: This is an emotionally challenging process because grandparents have to show that their adult children are not suited to rear their own children. It can be a difficult thing to attain and parents can push back in many ways. However, once custody of grandchildren is attained, it makes applying for medical assistance, cash assistance, and food stamps possible. The parents may not qualify for some benefits, but the children may. That also includes Social Security and child support.

Adoption: This is the final step since it permanently severs the legal rights of the parents. Parents can agree for their children to be adopted or court order can allow adoption.

None of these is a happy circumstance. However, for many families, opioid addiction has created situations where the best of the worst choices is for grandparents to rear their grandchildren without the presence of their parents.

Reference: Chillicothe Gazette (Oct. 8, 2018) “Need to help care for grandchildren? Here are some legal tips”

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