In an ideal world, all children would grow up surrounded by the love of a strong and supportive family. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, parents in Kansas find themselves unable or unwilling to take care of their children. When this happens, grandparents often step in to fill the void.
When grandparents take over the care of their grandchild, it is important for them to take steps to establish their legal rights. Having recognized legal authority over the grandchild will ensure that the child is well-protected, especially when it comes to education, medical care and emergency situations.
Grandparents who are seeking legal authority over their grandchild would be well-advised to consult with an experienced family law attorney. The law in this area is complex, and even small errors can cause big problems down the road. With that said, Kansas law does offer several good options, and grandparents can benefit significantly from having a general understanding of the law before they meet with an attorney.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney is usually the best option for grandparents who are taking on temporary custody of their grandchild with the consent of the child’s parents. Common situations in which powers of attorney are used include a parent being hospitalized or going away on military deployment or a long business trip.
A power of attorney is a legal document that lists the powers grandparents will have with respect to the child. Once the document is notarized, grandparents can file copies with the child’s school, medical providers and other agencies.
If a more long-term solution is needed, grandparents may want to consider securing legal guardianship over their grandchild. This tactic is frequently used in situations where the parent is facing addiction or severe mental health issues, is incarcerated or has decided that he or she is unable to care for the child.
Establishing guardianship is easiest when the parents consent. However, grandparent guardianship can still be established in cases where the parents do not consent or where one or both parents cannot be located. Grandparent guardianship can also be established as part of a Child in Need of Care (CINC) case.
Guardianship doesn’t necessarily terminate the parents’ rights. When the situation that gave rise to the guardianship has been resolved, the guardianship can be legally terminated and the grandparents will no longer have legal authority over the child.
While guardianship can be helpful in longer-term custody situations, it does have some limitations. For example, many insurance companies will not recognize a child as a “dependant” if there is only guardianship. In addition, guardianship does not establish a right for the grandchild to inherit an estate or collect Social Security survivor’s benefits if a grandparent dies.
Therefore, in permanent custody situations, it can often be best to pursue a grandparent adoption. While this is the most drastic option, it is also the one that most fully protects the child’s future. However, it is important to understand that a grandparent adoption will fully terminate the parents’ rights and absolve them of any obligation to support the child financially.
Working with a family law attorney
If you are concerned about getting custody or guardianship of your grandchild, know that there is help available. An experienced Kansas family law attorney will be able to review your case and help you figure out the best way to protect and support your family.