Taking Over Parenting as Grandparents
Many grandparents and grandchildren enjoy a close bond, which can be healthy and beneficial for everyone involved. Grandparents can spend quality time with their grandchildren, take them on outings, and lend parents a hand when it comes to busy schedules. However, in some situations, grandparents may need to step in and take over the parenting of their grandchildren.
When parents cannot care for their children - for whatever reason - it may be in the child’s best interests to have the grandparents become the primary caretakers. In fact, statistics indicate that about 70,000 grandparents in Tennessee have their grandchildren living with them. This can be a difficult situation that may involve contentious family relationships and legal battles, however, and it is important for grandparents to have the assistance and support they need.
Common Reasons for Parenting by a Grandparent
The number of children living with their grandparents instead of their parents is increasing across the United States. Parents may sometimes voluntarily place their children in the care of grandparents, or, in other situations, the state or court may order the change. Some of these arrangements are temporary while others are permanent, and some reasons for a grandparent taking over parenting may include:
- Deployment with the U.S. Armed Forces
- Drug addiction, especially opioid addiction
- Mental incompetency or institutionalization
- Physical or sexual abuse of the child
- Abandonment by the parents
- Death of one or both parents
Grandparent Fostering and Guardianship
If a parent is deployed or temporarily unable to provide care, they may reach an informal agreement that the grandparent will take care of the child for a period of time. If the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) determines the parent is unfit for the time being, DCS may request that the grandparents take the child in a kinship care capacity. This is often highly preferable to the child going to live in a foster home with strangers.
To ensure that a grandparent is able to enroll the child in school and be authorized to make other decisions for the child, it may be necessary for the grandparent to obtain legal guardianship over the child. The court can appoint them as guardian, which gives them rights and responsibilities regarding the child’s care and well-being. A guardianship can also make the grandparents eligible for public benefits to financially support the child.
Some grandparent guardianship cases are fairly straightforward, as the parents acknowledge and agree with the need for the guardianship, at least temporarily. However, some cases arise because the grandparents themselves have concerns about the care that their grandchild is receiving. These cases can be contentious and can cause rifts in families. It is important to discuss any concerns with an experienced family lawyer before you take legal action.
Contact Our Murfreesboro Family Law Attorneys to Discuss Your Situation
At Dotson & Taylor, our family lawyers represent clients in grandparent foster care and guardianship cases. If you would like to discuss a possible case regarding your children or grandchildren, please call 615-890-1982 or contact us online today.