Defining the Legal Relationship Between Grandparents and Their Grandchildren
Raising a grandchild (or even spending a lot of time with your grandchild while his or her parents work) can be fraught with legal and financial complications. Lacking many of the inherent rights parents have, grandparents who are responsible for the care of their grandchildren may encounter unexpected legal challenges.
Even if you are your grandchild’s full-time caregiver, consider obtaining certain legal rights so you can avoid unnecessary complications and instead focus on raising a happy and healthy child.
If you are raising your grandchild, don’t assume you can make legal decisions on your grandchild’s behalf. Without legal custody, you do not have the authority to make important decisions such as where he or she will go to school. If you are responsible for your grandchild’s care, it’s critical to establish a clear relationship in the eyes of the law.
The legal rights you need will depend entirely on your role in raising your grandchild. Does he or she live with you? Are you the sole caregiver? What role do the parents play? Are you financially responsible for your grandchild?
Answering these questions will give you a good starting point for seeking the legal rights and protections you need and deserve, which might include:
Physical or Legal Custody
If you have full-time custody for your grandchild, do you have a custody order? If not, you may want to consider getting one. Physical custody gives you the right to have your grandchild live with you. Legal custody gives you the right to make important decisions pertaining to education and medical care. Your grandchild’s parents may still retain some rights if you have custody. Also, custody orders are subject to modification if and when circumstances change.
If you care for your grandchild regularly, make sure his or her parents have named both short-term and long-term guardians, so that if anything happens to the parents, you are able to immediately step in and make legal decisions for your grandchild.
Adopting your grandchild would terminate his or her parents’ parental rights. You would become your grandchild’s legal parent, which is preferable in cases where the parents pose a risk to the child or when the child’s parents are deceased or no longer in contact. Adoption is permanent.
Power of Attorney
If you do not have custody, your grandchild’s parents could give you Medical Power of Attorney, which provides you with the temporary authority to make specific decisions around the health care of your grandchild. The parents can specify what decisions you can make and can revoke Power of Attorney at any point. Power of Attorney does not revoke the rights of the parents.
Educational or Medical Consent
Some states will grant non-custodial grandparents the rights to enroll their grandchildren in school and seek medical treatment. Speak with us to see if these are options in your state, if you would like to ensure you can make educational and medical decisions.
Even something as simple as enrolling your grandchild in school can be difficult if you don’t have the proper legal authorization.
If you’d like to simplify decision making while raising your grandchild (or even just full-time caregiving for your grandchild), meet with a Personal Family Lawyer® for guidance. We can help you obtain the rights and protections that will help you raise a happy and healthy grandchild. Our Family Wealth Planning Session™ guides you to the empowered, informed, and educated legal and financial decisions you need for the love of your family. Before the Session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what’s most important to you, and what would happen to everyone you love and everything you own, when something happens to you.
This article is a service of Wheatley Pritchard & Associates PLLC, Personal Family Lawyer®. We don’t just draft documents, we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. Schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session here or call our offices at (347) 778-5130 and mention this article to find out how to get this $750 session at no charge.