Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren face many practical, legal issues. Grandchildren who live with grandparents for periods of time are impacted on by a variety of the laws in the State of New York. Issues involving custody, visitation with the parents, who has custody of the grandchildren long term, where the grandchildren go to school, medical insurance for the grandchildren, child support issues between the parents and the grandparents are just some of the legal issues grandparents face. Is a grandparent authorized to make medical decisions for a grandchild?
Limitations Placed on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Grandparents who are raising their grandchildren do not necessarily have a legal right to make decisions involving a variety of issues concerning the health and general welfare of their grandchildren. For a grandparent to have legal authority over a grandchild the grandparent must obtain a court order. Physical custody is not the same as legal custody. If the children simply live with the grandparents they have what is commonly referred to as physical custody. However, the fact the grandchildren reside with the grandparents does not give them legal rights to make decisions regarding the grandchildren’s health care and school issues. Grandparents must bring a case in the Family Court to obtain temporary custody of their grandchildren. This will put them in a position where they can make decisions involving significant issues for their grandchildren. When a court grants a grandparent legal custody the grandparents then have legal authority to make decisions concerning the health and general welfare of the grandchildren.
Temporary Power of Attorney
In situations where the parents are cooperating, a temporary power of attorney can be given by the parent to the grandparents. This temporary power of attorney would give the grandparents temporary authority to make specifically delineated decisions on behalf of the grandchildren. The temporary power of attorney gives the grandparents specific legal rights that are clearly enunciated in the power of attorney. An example of these types of provisions may involve a grandchild travelling with a grandparent to another state or country and the grandparent is given authority during this trip to make medical decisions for their grandchildren. It should be noted the power of attorney can be revoked by the parents and has no impact on the legal rights of the parents to maintain custody of their children.
Adoption is a permanent route for grandparents to exercise both parental rights and responsibilities over a grandchild. In essence, once the grandparents adopt the grandchild the grandparents now become the parents of the grandchild. Adoptions by a grandparent can be on consent of the parent or can be done in situations where the parents don’t consent but they have been found to be unfit, incapable or have deserted their children.
Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq. has been working for grandparents’ rights with regard to issues concerning custody and visitation of their grandchildren for more than 3 decades. He can be reached at 800-344-6431 or e-mailed at Elliot@sdnylaw.com.