One of the biggest misconceptions that grandparents have is that there is nothing that they can do to protect their grandchildren. In reality nearly 10% of all children living in the United States reside with their grandparents. In many of these cases, the grandparents are actually raising the child(ren) instead of the parents. Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren should have legal guardianship for many reasons.
Reasons to File for Guardianship
Many grandparents do not realize that they should have legal guardianship of their grandchildren if they are raising them. If the grandparents do not have custody of the grandchildren, then the parents can come back into the children’s lives at any time and take them out of the stable home that they are living in. What is even worse for both the grandparents and the children is that the parents can choose to never allow the grandparents to see them again. While having guardianship does not mean that you can’t lose your grandchildren, it does mean that you have a stronger case in the eyes of the law.
Many Roads to Guardianship
Sometimes it is not in the child’s best interest for their parents to immediately lose full custody of them. In this case, the grandparents can actually apply for and become the foster parents of their grandchildren. This allows for the grandparents to have access to formal arrangements with the parents, financial assistance for the children, and access to legal help if a problem should occur.
When Grandparents Become the “Parents”
There are many different reasons for which grandparents are granted the custody of their grandchildren. The main reason that children might be placed with grandparents is because their parents are dealing with a legal or substance abuse issue. Some parents choose to leave their children in the care of grandparents when they are dealing with marriage issues, financial struggles, or even if they suffer from mental illness. Since these issues are typically associated with poor decision making abilities, it is often considered best for children involved to be in the care of someone else (in this case, the grandparents).
Issues with Parents Separating Grandparents from Grandchildren
One of the biggest problems with parents getting their custodial rights back is that they often choose to separate their children from the grandparents who were raising them. Parents who do this to their children have a number of reasons to do so. One might be that the parents feel jealous of the relationship that the grandparents have with their child. Another could be that they feel as though the grandparents are constantly judging or questioning their ability to parent successfully. Finally, they might feel as though they are being reminded of their problems when they see the grandparents. If a parent is struggling with psychological issues then it might seem as though their children would be better off without seeing the grandparents.
Reasons Grandparents Might Struggle with Obtaining Custody
One of the biggest reasons that a grandparent might not feel like trying to obtain custody of the grandchildren is that they might worry about whether or not the parents would retaliate later in life. They fear that parents would decide to separate them from their grandchildren if they were capable of caring for them at some point. Another thing that concerns grandparents is that they might ruin their relationship with their adult child. Finally, they might not be able to easily access the legal system or have enough money to try and fight their way through court.
What Can a Grandparent Do?
This brings us to the ultimate question of when grandparents should choose to seek out the custody of their grandchildren. If your grandchild is in immediate danger when they are with their parents, then it is a good idea to step in for the protection of the child. If the child does not have adequate medical care or needs insurance, it might also be time to talk to your child about custody (even if temporary and the parent’s idea). Talking with your child about how to care for your grandchildren in different situations can help with the decisions that they make.
Finally, if you feel that you do not know what way to turn when your grandchildren are concerned there are people who can help you. There are many agencies that can help you understand your rights as a grandparent and the long term issues that you might face over your grandchildren.