Choosing Grandparents as Guardians
Kinship families — or grandfamilies — are a growing trend in the United States. Families in crisis need help, and turning to grandparents to care for children is often a family’s first line of defense. This often includes having grandparents take guardianship of their grandchildren.
How do you get guardianship of a grandchild? Oklahoma child custody laws include a process for awarding child custody to grandparents. It can only happen within a specific framework for legal custody.
An Oklahoma Grandchild Guardianship Attorney Can Help in Times of Crisis
When Oklahoma Department of Human Services (DHS) steps in to remove a child from the home, it is often a time of crisis and upheaval for the family. Decisions regarding child custody need to be made quickly. And if the child is not able to live with relatives, all too often, the child ends up in state custody with an unfamiliar foster care situation.
Living with relatives is almost always preferable and less traumatic for the child or children involved. Giving grandparents guardianship is often the parents’ first choice. An Oklahoma grandparents guardianship attorney can help make the transition smoother, easing fears, and answering questions along the way.
Families consideringneed to know the reasons grandparents can file for custody of a grandchild in Oklahoma. In this article, we will look at the main issues facing those signing guardianship over to grandparents, and how to file for temporary custody of a grandchild.
Grandchild Guardianship: What it is and How it Works
When a child is removed from a family home by Oklahoma DHS, the child comes under the legal custody of the state of Oklahoma. Usually, this child is placed into foster care until the situation at home stabilizes. But a grandparent may petition the court to become the child’s guardian instead.
Guardianship is legal custody, though it can be for a temporary period of time. That means that if guardianship of the child is approved by the court, the grandparent becomes the child’s legal guardian. The grandparents custody rights then continue indeterminately — without a end date — until someone petitions the court to transfer custody in a child’s best interests.
Oklahoma Grandparents Custody Rights
Oklahoma law allows the appointment of a guardian over a minor child when it is necessary or convenient. That determination is made by a judge at a hearing often brought by a person seeking to be appointed as the child’s guardian.
Oklahoma law contains a preference to have a child placed with a family member when a child child needs to be transferred someone other than the parents. Placement with a family member is usually a less traumatic option for the child, and often helps a child develop better feelings about family in general.
Advantages of Grandparent Guardianship
When a grandparent has custody over a child, that grandparent can make major decisions about that child’s care. This is often helpful if the child has a long-lasting but immediate need, such as a chronic or acute medical condition, or when a child needs mental health care.
A legal guardian can enroll a child in school and make medical decisions for a child. A guardian may also be entitled to receive food stamps or receive child support for the child.
Guardianship is not time limited. It can last indefinitely but is subject to termination when the parents’ situation changes. If the situation is unlikely to change, it can serve as an intermediate step in preparation for grandparent adoption.
Steps To Get Custody of Your Grandchildren
In order to gain guardianship of your grandchild, you must file a petition with the court. The petition must address the circumstances of the child and indicate why a guardian is necessary. Once the petition is filed, an investigation of the child’s circumstances and of the prospective guardians begins. Notice of the hearing is given to parents and all other interested parties.
At the hearing, the judge will take evidence regarding child, the parents, and the potential guardians. There must be a showing of parental unfitness or absence in order for a guardian to be appointed. Unfitness can be shown where the parent’s condition and habits are such that they cannot reasonably be expected to provide for their child’s comfort, moral development or intellectual growth.
Giving Grandparents Guardianship Can Ease Tumult
As with all matters concerning children, the court is guided by the best interests of the child in making its determination. When a child is younger than 14, the judge decides on the appointment of the guardian. If the child is 14 years or older, the court can consider the child’s preferences of a guardian.
Once appointed, a guardianship continues until either the guardian is removed, or the child reaches the age of 18, or the child marries. Parents getting custody back from grandparents can only happen with the court’s approval. A guardian may be removed if the parent regains fitness.
Changes in child custody can be a tumultuous time for a child and for grandparents. Family changes are usually difficult, especially when a child is removed from the family home. Seeking the help of a guardianship attorney can smooth the transition, allowing the grandparent to focus on the needs of the child when their attention is needed most.
Consult a Tulsa Grandparents Child Custody Attorney Today
Grandparent guardianship can be one of the most rewarding times in a grandparent’s life. Getting the help you need in a kinship guardianship proceeding can really help. Get the support you need by consulting with a guardianship attorney today. We can help. Call us for a private, no-obligation consultation at (918) 994-1600 or click here to request a consultation online.