How does a grandparent collect back child support if not the biological parent?
Grandparents and Child Support Payments
Grandparents are not legally responsible to care for their grandchildren unless the state issues a court order forcing their support. But if you do decide to rear your grandchildren, under certain conditions, the court may allow you to receive child support payments from the parents.
Who can receive child support?
Although state laws can vary, generally a grandparent or other relative who is rearing a child who is not their biological child can receive child support if they have been given court-ordered custody of the child, a minor child lives in their household, a minor child is financially dependent on them financial support, the court orders child support to be paid to them, or the child's parents are not living in the same home and do not have custody of the child.
Applying for child support
The process to request child support can vary by state, but generally, the first step is to contact the child support services in your county. The state agency responsible for child support can provide you with an application (there may be a small fee).
Legal relationship options for grandparents
In addition to seeking child support for rearing grandchildren grandparents may also want to secure more permanent child custody arrangements which will give them broader legal protections. If you are rearing your grandchildren you can seek legal custody of your grandchild, guardianship of them, or choose to adopt them.
Legal custody (custody order)
Grandparents can establish legal custody of their grandchildren if the parents give up their parental rights or if the grandparents can prove the child was an unfit parent. If you already have physical custody of your child in some states the court may grant you legal custody after they determine it is in the best interest of the child.
Legal custody may or may not be a permanent arrangement. In some cases parents may be able to return to court and petition to have their children returned to them. For example, if your daughter is a drug user but is able to kick her habit, get counseling, and prove she is now a fit mother, the court may return legal custody to her if they believe she can now care for her children.
Another option for grandparents is to request guardianship of their grandchildren. Guardianship is usually handled in probate court and gives legal custody of a child to the grandparent until the child is 18 years of age. Under guardianship grandparents may have the right to make medical decisions, determine a future guardian (if needed), and add the children to their own insurance policy.
The final option to retain control of a grandchild is through adoption. Adoption allows the grandparent to permanently be given all parental rights and responsibilities for the children in their care.
Due to the complexities of family law and variations in state statutes, if you are rearing your children's kids it is a good idea to discuss your options with a family law attorney.
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