How do I go about adopting my granddaughter?
Recently on our forum we had a user ask, "If I have had custody of my granddaughter since she was one year old and she is now nine years old, how can I legally adopt her?"
Although child custody laws vary by state, courts generally agree that parents have the legal right to determine what is best for their child and care for them if they are able. There are circumstances, however, when the court will agree that a third party, such as a grandparent, is better suited to care for the child.
If you have had physical custody of your granddaughter and now wish to legally adopt her you will have to provide the court with compelling evidence that you should be given permanent custody.
Parents are alive but grandparent wants to adopt
If one or both of the parents are alive, the court will first consider whether the child could live with one of the parents. There are times, however, when parents are unwilling or unable to care for the child and the court will consider giving custody to a grandparent.
You may win custody of your granddaughter if you can prove both parents are not physically or mentally fit to care for the child, the parents both agree to allow you to rear your granddaughter, there is documented abuse in the parent’s home, the parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol or one parent is unfit and the other refuses to care for the child.
The good news for you is that you have already been the primary caretaker of the child for many years and even if another family member (other than the parent) decides they want to care for the child, the court will heavily weigh your previous involvement when they consider custody.
Courts will review a variety of factors before making their custody decision, but the primary factor will be what they determine to be in the best interests of the child.
Parents are dead and grandparents seek custody of the child
If the parents are dead the court generally prefers to leave a child with a close blood relative. If there are several relatives willing to take the child the court will review what is in the best interest of the child, where the child has currently been residing, if the grandparents were named as the child’s guardian and whether the child wants to live with their grandparents.
Steps to adopt a grandchild
If you want to adopt your grandchild you need to review the official statutes for adoption for your state and find out what requirements you must meet (age requirement, consent of a spouse, clean criminal record, etc.).
Next, locate, fill out, and turn in the proper forms to the state (forms can be found in your state or county courthouse). Find out if the parents will voluntarily terminate their parental rights and have them sign the consent forms. Determine if an in-home study and background check are necessary for the adoption.
Finally, you will have to attend the hearing. At the hearing the judge will ask you questions and issue a final Decree of Adoption. You will also need to give the Department of Health the appropriate forms, which generally include a modified birth certificate and the Adoption Decree. Contact your state Department of Health for information and instructions on completing this last step of the adoption process.
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A judgment can be enforced but you will have to take the initiative and the proper legal steps.
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