20 Jun Grandparental Custody Rights in the State of Florida
Child custody and parental laws can be confusing when you are looking at any situation outside of the traditional married couple with children. One group of US citizens that often have less exposure in the media and public mind when it comes to parental responsibilities are grandparents. Although grandparents are statistically less frequently the primary caregivers of children when it comes to the overall makeup of child custody in the United States, the situation is more common than you might initially think.
If you are a grandparent who is currently, or is about to take on, parental responsibilities of your grandchildren, knowing some relevant laws and statistics can help you make the transition. What follows is a useful list of statistics and laws that you may find helpful down the road.
Grandparents who hold Parental Responsibilities are not as Uncommon as you Think
While you may believe that the percentage of children whose primary head of household is their grandparents would be a minuscule number, this is simply untrue. In fact, the 2010 Florida census shows that grandparents and other relatives made up a full 12 percent of the head of households for children under 18. The census data shows that the amount of households led by grandparents is the largest in Jacksonville and Miami, Florida.
Obtaining a Legal Custody Order Can Help You Maintain Custody of your Grandchildren
A common scenario that leads to grandparents taking on parental responsibilities of their grandchildren is that the family courts find that their birth parents are currently unfit to raise the child. Whether this occurs due to extreme financial hardship, abuse, mental or physical instability, or other causes, grandparents will sometimes begin to fill the role of the parent in making important life decisions for the child in question.
While you may be able to make some of these important life decisions without legal power, many will require that you obtain a custody order from a family court judge. By doing this, you are taking a step toward establishing a binding legal relationship with your grandchild.
When obtaining a custody order, it will be a less complex process if the parents of the child have voluntarily given up their rights. However, if they refuse to do so and you still want to remove your grandchild from an unstable/hazardous living environment, you will be burdened with proving the unfit conditions to the court. However, there are exceptions that make it less complex. For instance, the state of Florida makes it easier to obtain legal status over the child if the child has already been in your physical custody for an extended period.
Guardianship can Provide a Good Option
For those grandparents who do not want to take over full custody from the birth parents, guardianship provides an excellent alternative. While guardianship is a good legal alternative in that it provides a court-ordered legal relationship between you and your grandchild, the birth parents often retain some rights. However, those grandparents who hold guardianship over a child will often be providing both day-to-day care and making most of the important life decisions regarding the child. Unlike custody requests, guardianship is handled within the probate court system, which makes the process differ.
Guardianship provides grandparents with the authority to handle many important factors in their grandchild’s life. Medical aspects are perhaps the most important factor grandparents gain control of through guardianship. With guardianship, grandparents will be able to make medical decisions on behalf of the grandchild, ensuring they are not left without proper medical care due to the neglect of the birth parents. Additionally, a grandparent who holds guardianship will be able to add a grandchild to their health insurance plan. This particular benefit is useful when a child is being handled by their grandparents due to the birth parents being financially unstable.
Grandparents, depending on their age and work requirements, may not always be able to handle the child 24/7. Because of this, guardians can designate standbys that can act as care providers when the grandparent is unavailable. This helps to avoid claims by the birthparents that accuse the grandparents of not having the needed amount of flexibility to properly care for the child.
Resources are Widely Available for Grandparents in Need of Assistance
Your situation is not as uncommon as you may have been led to believe. With the proper attorney, you should be able to navigate the custody or guardianship of your grandchildren in an effective and efficient manner.
With knowledge of your rights and the legal possibilities, coupled with the desire to help your grandchildren thrive in a caring environment, you can help to ensure your grandchildren live stable lives. Many options are available for grandparents looking to support their grandchildren in this manner. If you have any questions regarding the process, please give us a call at +1.786.309.8588.