Children deserve to be safe and cared for. It can be extremely difficult for family members of to see their grandchild, other young family member, or a unrelated living in a situation that does not seem appropriate or healthy.
The attorneys and paralegals at The Children’s Law Center LLLC are have helped many clients to obtain guardianship of their relative children. In many of these circumstance, the parents are simply not able to safely and appropriately parent their children, whether it is because they are extremely young (teen parents), have drug or alcohol issues, or even health issues that make it difficult for them to parent on a full time basis.
Guardianships can happen with the consent of the legal parents (consent Guardianship) or without the consent of the child’s parents (non-consent Guardianship). A ‘consent’ Guardianship is a relatively simple process, that includes a moderate amount of paperwork and a one-time hearing at Family Court. On the other hand, a non-consent Guardianship may require significantly more time spent at Family Court, and may include a trial.
The Children’s Law Center attorneys and paralegals help clients navigate the complex paperwork required to adopt a child. Even a “consent” adoption (when the biological parent is agreeable to the adoption) can be time-consuming and confusing. Having an attorney on board to help will make sure that the adoption process does not stall.
What is the difference between an Adoption and a Guardianship?
When you adopt a child, the parental rights of the biological parents are terminated. If you are a step parent adopting your stepchild, the parental rights of your spouse are not terminated, but the parental rights of the other parent are terminated.
- An adoption is permanent. Once an adoption is finalized, the adopting parent(s) become the permanent legal parent(s) of the child. You will get a new birth certificate naming you (or you and your spouse) as the parent(s) of the child.
- You cannot terminate an adoption. For instance, if you are adopting your grandchild because your son or daughter is, “not ready” to care for their child, you cannot later terminate the adoption when you feel that your son or daughter is ready to parent. If you are hopeful that the child’s parent will someday be ready and capable of parenting their child, a guardianship may be a better option.
When you take guardianship of a child, the parental rights of the child’s parents are “suspended” by the Court. The Guardian or Co-Guardians “step into the shoes” of the parents.
- A Guardianship is terminated when the child turns 18, gets married, or by “further order of the Court.”
- The Guardian of the child may ask permission from the Court to resign as Guardian or the child’s parents may ask the Court to terminate the Guardianship.
Obtaining Guardianship of a child or children who you believe is in need of a safe and nurturing environment is an admirable and important goal. The Children’s Law Center is committed to helping family members through the process of Guardianship so that children who are in unstable households can have stability and consistency and loving homes.