Legal Challenges for Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

As opiate addiction has ravaged our communities, children are often left in the lurch and those trying to help are blocked by red tape.

Opioid addictions devastate families and the impact has begun to show itself in estate planning law firms. To help grandparents cut through the red tape to help to their grandchildren, an attorney from the Southern Ohio Legal Services recently presented an overview of what grandparents can do, according to the Chillicothe Gazette in the article “Need to help care for grandchildren? Here’s some legal tips.”

Depending on the state and the circumstances, these steps may also be useful for others seeking to help young children in their families:

Visitation rights: Grandparents can file to get visitation with their grandchildren in most states. The court will determine whether it is in the best interest of the child.

Grandparent power of attorney: In most states, this requires the consent of the parent. However, it is a means by which grandparents can legally perform certain actions for their grandchildren, such as getting medical treatment or enrolling them in school. Parents have the right to revoke this at any time, although it is a faster process than other options.

Caretaker authorization: If the parent has left the children and no one knows where they are, but legal authorization like seeking medical treatment or interacting with the school is needed, a caretaker authorization can be granted by the court. The parent can revoke this at any time. However, in some situations, grandparents might be able to delay the parent taking the kids for up to two weeks. This delay also requires filing for custody.

Kinship placement: When children are removed from the care of their parents, courts and agencies often look to a relative for emergency placement. If grandparents can agree for a longer placement, a background check and a class may be the next step for evaluation. If approved, Child Services will retain legal custody, but you have rights to care for your grandchild in the meantime.

Custody: This is an emotionally challenging process because grandparents have to show that their adult children are not suited to rear their own children. It can be a difficult thing to attain and parents can push back in many ways. However, once custody of grandchildren is attained, it makes applying for medical assistance, cash assistance and food stamps possible. The parents may not qualify for some benefits, but the children may. That also includes Social Security and child support.

Adoption: This is the final step, since it permanently severs the legal rights of the parents. Parents can agree for their children to be adopted or a court order can allow adoption.

None of these is a happy circumstance. However, for many families, opioid addiction has created situations where the best of the worst choices are for grandparents to rear their grandchildren without the presence of their parents. 

Reference: Chillicothe Gazette (Oct. 8, 2018) “Need to help care for grandchildren? Here’s some legal tips”

Hear From Our Clients

I heard Cindy’s presentation at a Senior Luncheon at my church, and was very impressed. She helped my daughter and me understand many aspects of elder law. Josh has also been very helpful in my planning to enter an independent living situation . I have told many friends about them.

- Charlotte

The very best elder law attorney and staff anyone could ever ask for! I have referred a number of clients to Cindy and she never disappoints. She is kind, caring, and extremely thorough in making sure everything is completed as it should be. I highly recommend Cindy for anyone needing lawyer services; she truly goes above and beyond for every client she helps and has had a huge impact in so many peoples’ lives. Thank you, Cindy and staff, for everything that you do- I’m so glad to know you!

- Kerri

Cindy and the Nelson Elder Care Law team are trustworthy and helpful. They are the experts in elder care law. At Leaf Cremation, we entrust our families to the care of the Nelson team when their services are needed.

- Pierce

Josh Nelson, and his staff, have been amazingly helpful to our family. The ins and outs of nursing homes, the rules and regulations that govern Medicare and Medicaid are daunting and the folks at Nelson Elder Care Law have been informative, responsive, and above all, empathetic. I cannot emphasize enough how their service has taken a weight off of our shoulders especially during a world pandemic that has targeted nursing homes across our country. I highly recommend retaining Josh and his firm!

- Marcia

I had a simple legal question to them that I needed answered and they very helpful in giving me the information I needed. I highly recommend them and will reach out to them if I need more advice or assistance. Thank you for taking your time to just answer a couple of questions I had!

- Ben