Adoption of a minor child by a grandparent caregiver can be an important tool for ensuring the legal security of the child. Given the significant divorce rate, economic hardship, psychological instability, teen pregnancy, and substance abuse we see all around us, it is not surprising that there are many families where grandchildren are being raised by their grandparents. In a fair number of cases, the child’s parents have been unable, or in some cases unwilling, to adequately parent the child and have reached out to their own parents for help. In other situations, the grandparents have taken the initiative to step in to assume custody and care of the child. Some parents are unable to provide financially for themselves much less their child; some are not emotionally ready or capable of providing for the physical, mental, and emotional needs of a child; some through admirable self-evaluation have concluded that they are not suited for the responsibilities of parenthood; and in some sad cases, parents have neglected or abused their children.
In many instances, the grandmother or grandfather has been the sole caregiver for years, the grandchild’s parents have been largely absent from the child’s life, and as a consequence the grandson or granddaughter has identified with the grandparent as his or her parent. In such cases, the grandparent has become the child’s de facto parent, paying for medical care, school, and recreational expenses, ferrying the child to and from sports practice, dance lessons, school plays, and other activities, and attending doctor visits and teacher conferences. In some cases, grandparents are the only mother and father the child has ever known.
Although the grandparent may be doing all the “heavy lifting” of parenting a grandson or granddaughter, the grandparent does not have the same status vis a vis the child as a biological or legal parent of the child. Thus, although the grandparents are fulfilling all the responsibilities of parenthood, they are not afforded the rights of parenthood. This can complicate the ongoing care of the child and the grandparent’s ability to raise the child, and adoption may cure these problems.
Adoption of the grandchild by a grandparent establishes legally the parent-child relationship already existing between the child and the grandparent and affords all the legal protections of the parent-child relationship, including such things as child support, succession of property upon the grandparent’s death, and all other laws that affect parents and children. The legal process for adoption involves the termination of the legal and/or biological parental rights and the finalization of the grandparent’s adoption of the child. Through adoption, the child is the child of the grandparents just as though born to them, and the adopting grandparents obligate themselves for such things as child support as well as all other parental responsibilities and liabilities with respect to the child and have full parental prerogatives and rights with respect to the child. Since the grandparents are related to the child within the third degree of consanguinity, Florida law provides for a unified legal process and does not require a grandparent to have a home study. Many times, the consent of a birth parent can be waived or excused by the court.
If you have questions about how to do a grandparent adoption, if you are interested in adopting your grandchild or grandchildren, or if you are a parent who wishes to have your child adopted by the child’s grandparents, please contact Jeanne T. Tate, P.A. (firstname.lastname@example.org or 813.258.3355). Jeanne has focused her practice on adoption law for over 30 years and we have helped complete adoptions for thousands of families, including innumerable grandparent adoptions.