For many different reasons, grandparents may raise their grandchildren. This arrangement is more prevalent than ever, with nearly ten percent of children are being raised by grandparents. A child custody attorney understands the unique challenges created by this situation and have some suggestions for grandparents who are facing this situation.
Types of Custody and Control
When grandparents have custody of their grandchildren, they are responsible for making important decisions on their behalf. Some custodial agreements can make that difficult and leave them without the actual ability to do what is necessary for the children. Following are some of the various types of custody agreements:
Legal Custody – This type of arrangement that is awarded by the court and usually based upon a judge’s decision that this is in the best interest of a child. This arrangement involves visitation and other rights and agreements similar to a divorce; however, the child resides with the grandparents.
Legal Guardianship – This particular child custody arrangement covers a wide range of situations. It is basically an assignment of a person or persons – in this case the grandparents – to be responsible for a minor child in the event the parents are not able to perform such duties themselves.
Power of Attorney – An arrangement for child custody occurs when parents give certain decision-making rights to grandparents to be exercised in their absence, such as during military assignment, business travel, etc. These agreements are generally short-term in duration and involve decisions such as medical care, schooling, etc. This does not involve the actual custody or guardianship of the minor child.
Adoption – Adoption involves a parent giving legal custody of the child to the grandparents; the legal relationship between the child and parent is dissolved. The parents are no longer responsible for the child and the grandparents are now adoptive parents similar to most legal adoptions.
Understanding Legal Rights
When grandparents have a custody/guardianship arrangement on behalf of their grandchildren, specific rights can be confusing. A child custody attorney explains that before such situations are considered legal, all involved parties must discuss the situation – usually with representing attorneys, and draw up an agreement as to specific circumstances and needs regarding the minor child.
Through negotiations, parents and grandparents reach an agreement as to who has what rights and responsibilities. They must also reach an agreement about visitation rights, the limits of each party’s relationship with the minor child, and if such relationships can change with other custody, guardianship, and adoptive agreements or court orders.
Understanding all of this is essential, especially considering that many grandparents raising minor grandchildren are on limited incomes. Accommodations must reached as to who pays for health care, schooling, and the essential needs of the children. This is done through the courts to protect grandparents and ensure that all parties involved understand their legal responsibilities to the involved minor children.
Parenting grandchildren can be rewarding to grandparents – and it can also be stressful, costly, and confusing. It is the recommendation of a child custody attorney to contact an experienced family law attorney who can provide the necessary assistance to grandparents raising a grandchild. The intent of this arrangement is to ensure that it serves the best interests of the minor child as well as the concerns and needs of the grandparents.
Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520