There are many situations in which grandparents may need to take custody of their grandchildren. In our last blog post, we discussed two legal arrangements that are common in grandparental custody cases: Power of attorney, and foster parenting. Our post today will conclude this two-part series on grandparental custody by exploring three more custody options for grandparents.
Grandparents as guardians
The definition of "guardian" can be very broad. When many people use the word "guardian," they think of someone who is a child's mentor and protector. In Texas, "guardian" is actually the legal term for someone who is appointed by the court to care for a minor. Grandparents may be granted a guardianship if the court rules that the child's parents are no longer willing or able to provide adequate care.
Physical and legal custody
Physical and legal conservatorship, which is typically considered to be rights of "custody" to a child, are a step up in permanence from guardianship. Primary conservatorship, or physical custody, means that the grandchildren live at their grandparents' residence; legal custody means that grandparents are allowed to make major life decisions regarding education, religion and medical care for their grandchildren. If grandparents wish to have more control over their grandchildren's lives, they can petition the court for temporary or permanent legal conservatorship and physical custody.
Grandparents may also have the option of legally adopting their grandchildren. Legal adoption is a permanent arrangement that completely terminates the parents' rights. This is the most permanent custody option for grandparents; it is very rare, and happens only in extenuated circumstances, and must be approved by Court order. Still, it may be a good option for grandchildren whose parents are no longer able to care for them in the long term.
Obtaining custody of grandchildren
Grandparents who are interested in obtaining custody of their grandchildren are advised to contact a family law attorney. It is possible for grandparents to obtain custody without legal counsel, but working with a lawyer can speed up the process and frequently works to the grandparents' advantage. A Board-certified expert family law attorney can also discuss every possible custody option and help grandparents decide which choice is best for their grandchildren.