It is no longer uncommon for grandparents to have physical custody and provide care for their grandchildren when the parents are undergoing difficult times. Most grandparents have significant and loving relationships with their grandchildren, and grandchildren develop similar relationships with their grandparents. As such, it may come as a shock when the parents indicate they wish to relinquish their parental rights and put their children up for adoption. What (if anything) can a grandparent do to maintain physical custody of their grandchildren if the parents wish for their children to be adopted?
Can Grandparents Obtain Custody over Their Grandchild?
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows for a grandparent to file a petition for custody so long as the child is not in the physical custody of one of their parents. This means that if you are watching the child during the day but the child is spending the night with one of their parents, you may not have the legal standing necessary to ask the court to award you custody. Both parents must voluntarily relinquish the child to the grandparent in word or by having lived without the child for a period of time.
Note, though, that you may be able to bring a custody action if your child (the grandchild’s parent) is deceased and certain other facts exist.
The only other method by which a grandparent can obtain custody over their grandchildren is if both parents agree to place the child with the grandparent.
With this arrangement, the parents may continue to have rights to visit with the child and may have the ability to modify the order in the future if they so choose.
Can Grandparents Obtain Guardianship over Their Grandchild?
Guardianship, like custody, gives the grandparent the ability to make decisions about the well-being of the child. The process begins with the filing of a petition for guardianship by the grandparent or some other interested party. The court will then determine whether appointing a guardian is needed and who is best suited to be the child’s guardian. If one or both parents object to the grandparent being named as the child’s guardian, the grandparent will need to show why the parent is unfit to care for the child.
Can Grandparents Adopt Their Grandchild?
Grandparents may seek to adopt their grandchildren as well. The parents may consent to the adoption, in which case the adoption will proceed without the need for a contested court hearing. If one or both parents do not consent, then the grandparent will need to provide sufficient evidence of parental unfitness so that the court will terminate the parental rights of the parents.
Protect Your Rights with a Family Law Attorney
Grandparents living in Illinois may have legitimate concerns about the parenting ability of their grandchild’s parents. It may be disheartening to learn that there are few options for petitioning the court for custody or guardianship and that, if either parent objects, you may need to go through a contested hearing in order to prevail. Contact the dedicated DuPage County family law attorneys at Abear Law Offices for assistance in protecting your legal rights as a grandparent.