What legal steps should I take if I am caring for my grandchild?
In an ideal world, all children would be raised in a loving and stable family. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every child. At times, parents across America find themselves unable to properly care for their children. When a parent fails to provide the needed care, grandparents will often step in. In the United States today, it is estimated that 4.9 million children live in the care of one or both grandparents. Some grandparents will pursue adoption of their grandchildren, but it is important for grandparent caregivers to recognize that adoption is not their only legal option. There are a number of ways a grandparent can take legal action to care for their grandchild.
When a child is placed in foster care, grandparents may still be able to visit under some circumstances. Grandparent visitation is limited, and the court will consider whether visitation is in the best interests of the child. Another option for grandparents is to become your grandchild's foster parent.
Depending on the circumstances, a grandparent could pursue shared custody of their grandchild with the child's parent or parents. You will share the responsibilities of caring and providing for the child. You and your child (or son or daughter in law) can also decide to share physical custody. Shared custody arrangements can sometimes be worked out through mediation.
If a court has deemed the parents of your grandchild unfit, you could elect to become the child's legal guardian. Michigan law allows grandparents to seek legal guardianship under certain limited circumstances. As a guardian, you will be fully responsible for the care of your grandchild.
Michigan law also allows grandparents to adopt a grandchild under some circumstances, including the termination of both parents' parental rights. Adoption is a permanent legal right that will render you the legal parent of your grandchild. Adoption is a big step, but one that may make sense if your grandchild's parents are permanently incapable of providing loving care.