In the US, one in 10 children lives with a grandparent. One-third of these households don’t have any parents in the home which means the grandparent(s) are raising their grandchildren alone. These households are often referred to as “skip generation” families. In most of these instances, the grandparents don’t have legal guardianship or custody of the grandchildren who live with them. If you’re a Florida resident, here are some important things to know about grandparental guardianship.*
What is guardianship?
Guardianship is the legal term that refers to the relationship between a child and someone caring for the child (other than the child’s parents). This can describe the relationship between grandparents who act as parents but guardianship is not limited to grandparents. With guardianship, the grandparent will have most of the rights that come with parenting without formally adopting the grandchildren.
Should you consider guardianship?
When grandparents are raising their grandchildren, there are a few good reasons to pursue guardianship so that the children are not given back to their parents. Parents are given special consideration in custody cases and if the grandparent doesn’t have guardianship, the parents can reclaim their children without having to go to court.
In a guardianship situation, parents may still be permitted to visit their children and will likely be responsible for paying support to whoever is taking care of the children. However, the circumstances that lead grandparents to take care of their children often mean they won’t receive financial support. For instance, some grandparents assume the parental role if the child’s parents are addicted to drugs or alcohol or incarcerated.
Guardians are permitted to make decisions regarding the well-being of the children they care for. Guardians can decide the medical treatment, education, and psychiatric care that children will receive. In some cases, grandparental guardians can name an alternate guardian to care for the children.