It sometimes becomes necessary for grandparents to take on more of a parental role over their grandchildren. When a parent is unable to adequately care for your grandchild, you may have the responsibility to take charge of the child raising responsibilities. Apart from the personal responsibility you may feel, there are serious legal implications to choosing to act as your grandchild’s primary caregiver.
Grandparents commonly make decisions about their grandchildren, and will often serve as substitute caregivers when the parents are at work, on vacation or at other times. However, the law may require something more than the relationship that exists between you, the child’s parents and your grandchild. Even if you have taken custody of the child, that doesn’t mean you have specific legal rights. In order to have the legal right to make child-rearing decisions, you may have to go to court and seek a guardianship. In a guardianship hearing, the court will determine who should have the right to care for the child if the parent cannot.
In some situations guardianships may not be enough. If the grandparents have to take full-time care of a grandchild, such as when both of a grandchild’s parents die, the grandparent may need to legally adopt the grandchild. Adoption requirements, like guardianships, differ from state to state, and you need to speak to an attorney for details about the laws that apply in your situation.
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