Grandparents caring for their grandkids is becoming more and more common these days. Most of the time, the arrangement is between family and not court ordered. But, there are situations where grandparents want to formally adopt their grandchildren. Is this possible, here in New Jersey?
When do Grandparents Step In?
Grandparent adoption frequently arises when the parent or parents are struggling. Sometimes the struggle is physical or mental. Sometimes there are drug and addiction issues or even incarceration. A court will not casually terminate parental rights, even if the parent sees the child very infrequently. It is a drastic, last step that is typically tied to some sort of abuse or neglect of the child.
Before a child can be adopted in any situation, one or both parent’s parental rights must first be terminated. This can happen through the Department of Child Protection & Permanency (DCPP, formerly DYFS) or through the parent voluntarily giving up their parental rights. But, parental rights cannot be voluntarily given up unless there is another person ready, willing and able to adopt the child.
After the birth parents have relinquished their rights, or a court has terminated their rights, a grandparent adoption can proceed through the appropriate court process. Adoption is not automatic and DCPP oversees the process. Once the grandparent adoption is completed, the birth or biological parent’s rights are ended and the grandparents become the legal, adoptive parents of their grandchildren.
What happens after adoption?
Once the adoption process is completed and the grandparents have become, for all intents and purposes, the parents to their grandchild, the biological parents no longer have any rights to custody or even visitation with the child. Any visitation must be done only with permission of the adoptive grandparents. By the same token, the birth parents are no longer responsible for child support, contribution to college or any type of financial assistance when it comes to the child.
Whether or not to grant permission to have the birth parents in the child’s life in any form is completely and totally up to the grandparents. Considering this interaction should be done with care, especially if the relationship was ended due to abuse or neglect. Grandparents should think about discussing any visits between child and birth parent with a child therapist to ensure that they are protected and emotionally secure.
Deciding to adopt grandchildren can be emotionally difficult for the entire family. Grandparents do not want to admit that their children cannot or will not take care of their grandkids and parents can also become resentful and angry at the suggestion.
Above all else, think about your grandkids and what is in their best interests. Put aside feelings of anger and hurt to be sure that the children are safe, cared for and that they will be provided with the best future possible.
We at Weinberger Divorce and Family Law Group understand your strong bond with your grandchildren and are able to sit down with you and come up with a plan that keeps their best interests at heart. When you’re ready, schedule a free consultation by calling us at 888-888-0919 or click the button below.