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Raising the Grandchildren? What are Your Legal Rights?

Posted by Nina Whitehurst | Mar 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

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The reason doesn't matter. When grandparents raise the grandchildren, legal advice is very important.

If you end up in the situation where you are bringing up your grandchildren, there are some legal issues you may need to face, according to the Record Herald in “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.” Just for starters, you cannot enroll the children into school or make medical decisions without proper documentation.

There are some options available to give grandparents the legal authority needed to make decisions as they rear their grandchildren.

Grandparent Power of Attorney. If the parents of the child are living and their whereabouts are known, the parents and grandparent may execute a document known as a grandparent power of attorney. This allows the grandparent to legally manage a number of tasks:

  • Enroll the child in school
  • Obtain educational and behavioral information about the child.
  • Consent to all school-related matters, like trips, after-school activities, etc.
  • Consent to any medical, psychological or dental treatment for the child.

A grandparent power of attorney needs to be signed by the child's parents, signed by the grandparents, be notarized and filed in the juvenile court of the county where the grandparent lives. It is possible that the juvenile court may refuse to accept the Power of Attorney, if it believes that it is not in the child's best interest.

A grandparent Power of Attorney is temporary, and it can be revoked at any time by the child's parents. It also terminates immediately once the child no longer lives with the grandparent.

Caretaker Authorization Affidavit. If the child is living with the grandparent and the grandparent has tried but failed to locate the parents, the grandparent may execute a caretaker authorization affidavit. This allows the grandparent to:

  • Exercise care, physical custody and control of the child.
  • Enroll the child in school.
  • Discuss the child's educational progress with school officials.
  • Consent to medical, psychological or dental treatment for the child.

This document must be signed by the grandparent, notarized and filed in the juvenile court of the county, where the grandparent resides. Just like the grandparent Power of Attorney, the juvenile court may refuse to accept the caretaker authorization affidavit if it believes it is not in the child's best interest. The caretaker authorization affidavit is also temporary and terminates when the child no longer lives with the grandparent.

Legal Custody Proceeding. For a grandparent to obtain permanent custody of a child, grandparents need to file a complaint asking for legal custody to be granted to them. This is permanent, and also the most difficult option to obtain. An award of legal custody to the grandparents gives them the same rights as the parents while, at the same time, removing the rights of the child's parents. The person who has legal custody may make all important decisions for the child, including educational and medical decisions.

Reference: Record Herald (Feb. 26, 2019) “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren”

About the Author

Nina Whitehurst

Attorney at Law Nina has been practicing law for over 30 years in the areas of estate planning, real estate and business law She is currently licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Tennessee. Her Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating is the highest achievable: 5 stars in peer...

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