As a grandparent, you’ll no doubt care deeply for your grandchildren, and will most certainly want the best for them. So, what if you feel their parents, foster parents or step-parents simply aren’t up to the job?
Adopting your grandchildren is certainly an option for anyone looking to give their beloved grandkids the life they deserve. The question is, what are your rights and options as a grandparent, and is adopting a good idea? What’s more, how can you go about this new life step? Take a look…
What Are the Rights of Grandparents?
Before we dive right into adoption as a grandparent, it’s important that you first know your rights in terms of your grandchildren. It’s actually a lot more complicated than you might think.
Do Grandparents Have the Right to See Their Grandchildren?
For starters, even though they are related by blood, grandparents do not have the automatic right to see their grandchildren. That said, when it comes to their role in the family court, the role of grandparents isn’t ignored. After all, they can be instrumental within the childcare and family dynamic.
Because of this, there are ways that grandparents can ask for contact with their grandchildren. It’s first recommended that they try to come to an amicable arrangement with the parents or carers. Then, it can reasonably be taken to court if a decision can’t be made, although this is a last resort.
Grandparents’ Rights for Child Arrangement Orders
In more contentious situations, where divorce, death, or abuse takes a hold of the family, there may be a way for grandparents to seek greater parental responsibility. This determines:
- Where the child lives;
- Who they spend their time with;
- Their education;
- Their medical treatment;
- Their holidays, and more.
It also gives you the right to take any unpaid parental leave too. It is usually those with this parental responsibility who can apply for a child arrangement order, and grandparents do not automatically have this. That said, they can apply for this responsibility if they can prove any of the following factors:
- They are greatly involved in their grandchildren’s lives.
- Why the application is being brought forward, i.e. the parents aren’t suitable.
- The parents are happy with it.
- Whether the application will or will not be harmful to the child.
Each case will be looked at on an individual basis, and assessed based on the above factors. Usually, the Child Arrangement Order will only go ahead if it will lead to a better quality of life for the child.
Grandparents’ Rights for Special Guardianship
There are cases where special guardianship can be applied for instead. This provides the applicant with parental responsibility without having to consult the parents.
This sort of application usually goes ahead if the parent becomes incapacitated for any reason. For example, they may become disabled, or remain in hospital in a coma for an undetermined period of time. It aims to provide the child with a permanent and legal placement until they turn 18.
The local authority will assess the situation on a case-by-case basis. If the parent becomes able to care for the child again, they can then apply for the guardianship to be revoked.
What if my Grandchild is Adopted or Goes into Foster Care?
In some cases, things can get a little more complicated, specifically if the grandchild goes into foster care or is adopted by another family. When this occurs, the local authority has a duty to provide the child with contact to their biological family – mainly their parents. So, as long as this is in their best interests, you may be able to get in contact with them.
That said, considering the fact grandparents have no parental responsibility in the eyes of the law, Child Services will not see this as a priority. This is because they have to consider the parents’ wishes, and their responsibilities, first.
To bypass this a little, grandparents are able to put forward an order providing for contact with them alongside the adoption order. This way, the grandparents can remain in contact with the child, but these are usually very rare unless the child is adopted within the family.
Can I Adopt my Grandchild?
Adopting within families is rarely considered a good idea, mostly because it completely alters the family dynamics. For example, if a grandparent legally adopts their grandchild, then their mother or father legally becomes their sister. As you can see, this can get a little confusing, and may have a long-lasting effect on the child.
Other than this, however, there is no law against grandparents adopting their grandchildren. In essence, in can actually be very beneficial for the child involved, especially if the parental situation is a little rocky. For example, it might be a good idea if:
- Their parent dies.
- Their parent is abusive.
- Their parent is unable to care for them due to addiction or disability.
- Their parent is unfit for the role.
Ultimately, a grandparent adopting a grandchild seems to be a good option for contentious situations where the parent could be deemed unfit to raise a child. It could provide some sense of normality to the child’s life; they’re looked after by someone who they know and love already.
That said, considering the family dynamic becoming skewed, Special Guardianship, as mentioned above, is usually deemed the superior choice. This way, you have the legal right to care for your grandchild in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.
Think You’re Ready to Adopt Your Grandchild?
As you can see, adopting a grandchild isn’t necessarily as simple as you might have hoped. In fact, not only are their social barriers, but there may also be barriers within the family dynamic which render this step unconventional.
Yes, this may be the only option, but there are plenty of different avenues to gain parental responsibility, as we’ve seen above. That said, if you feel this is the right step for you and our family, it is possible for you to make this big step. Be sure to seek the help of a family solicitor if this is the case.
We wish you luck with your new family adventure!