First and foremost, grandparents are not legally required to raise their grandchildren except when the state issues a court order. If you choose to or the court asks you to raise your grandchildren, then you may be eligible to receive child support in some cases. Every case is different, and you should consult a family law attorney straight away for any specific concerns. As a family lawyer, from a law office like the McKinney Law Group can explain, the following are general points about grandparents’ custody and child support circumstances.
Are Grandparents Awarded Child Support?
Each state’s laws vary on the subject, however, any relative that is caring for the child of one of their kin can get child support if:
- They have been ordered by the court to retain custody
- The child is a minor and lives in their household
- A minor child depends on the relative(s) for financial support
- The court has already ordered child support to be paid to them
- The parents do not live in the same place and do not retain custody
The first step to beginning the application process for child support is to contact state child services. They can provide you with the proper paperwork for a small fee and help walk you through the process.
Seeking a Secure Legal Relationship
Grandparents may wish to take the process a step further by seeking legal custody, guardianship or adoption. Now they have a good chance at gaining child support and they have a more secure custody situation that allows them better legal protection. Everything becomes more official and more stable.
Obtaining Legal Custody of Grandchildren
In a situation where the child’s parents relinquish their parental rights or are proven to be unfit to raise their child, a grandparent will be able to obtain legal custody. This is separate than physical custody, which the grandparents may already have before applying for legal custody. Legal custody refers to the parental right to make major decisions in the interest of your child, including living situation and education. The court will award custody arrangements if they see it as the best option for the well-being of the child.
Custody arrangements may be permanent, or temporary depending on the parents’ situation. Parents may petition the court later to regain custody and if they prove that they are fit and the court sees it as the best arrangement for the child, they will.
Guardianship can give grandparents legal custody over their grandchildren until they reach eighteen years old. They control all the legal decisions necessary to care for the child and can add them onto insurance policies. They may also choose who takes up the guardianship in case anything should happen.
Adopting as the Final Option
Adoption is the most permanent solution to custody arrangements since all parental rights and obligations are awarded to the grandparents. You can’t overturn an adoption, necessarily, so they will remain the parental authority.
Family law is complex, particularly in the area of child support and custody. The court will always choose the situation that is the best for the child. If you are a grandparent seeking custody, support, or both, call a family law attorney with experience in these cases. They can offer you a free consultation and detailed advice.