Grandparent Custody in Los Angeles

What is the most common way for a grandparent to acquire legal custody of a grandchild?

The most common method to establish a custody relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is if a judge issues a custody order. In the event the birth parent does not want to voluntarily relinquish parental rights, it is up to the grandparent to show that the parent is unfit to have custody of the child.

Legal custody is not always considered permanent. A child’s birth parent will need to petition the court if they want to regain custody. If it is shown that the parent’s circumstances have changed for the better and they are able to provide proper care of the child, then the court may decide to reinstate the parent’s custody.

What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants certain legal rights. A child’s parent can execute a power of attorney granting a grandparent temporary authority to make certain decisions regarding the child, including the right to seek medical care for the child or register the child for school.

However, a power of attorney does not extinguish a parent’s legal rights, and the power of attorney can be revoked at any time. The laws governing power of attorney can vary state-by-state, so it’s vital to consult a knowledgeable attorney.

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What is kinship foster care?

If the state removes a child from his/her parent’s home, a grandparent may provide kinship foster care as a temporary custody option. However, in this situation, the grandparent does not have legal custody of the child, which means that even though the grandparent can care for the child on a day-to-day basis, important decisions will require approval from the state agency responsible for the child.

Also, kinship foster care is not a permanent solution. Ultimately, it is up to the state whether the child can remain in the permanent custody of the grandparent or if it would be better for the child to be placed elsewhere.

Further, kinship foster care can be either formal or informal. Under a formal arrangement, grandparents are eligible to receive monthly payments as foster parents. However, in such circumstances the grandparents would be subject to certain requirements, such as training, home inspections, and evaluation by the state.

Alternatively, under an informal arrangement, the state allows the grandparent to have custody of the child without state supervision. However, in this situation the grandparent will not be eligible to receive foster parent payments.

What is guardianship?

Similar to legal custody, “guardianship” grants a grandparent the right to provide day-to-day care for the child, but allows the child’s parents keep some of their parental rights. The main difference between custody and guardianship is that guardianship is usually granted by a probate court rather than a family court.

Some states consider guardianship more of a permanent arrangement than legal custody, which can remain in place until the child is no longer a minor (usually 18 years old). It is also not uncommon for a guardian to have additional legal authority, such as:

  • The ability to add a grandchild to health insurance coverage.
  • Make health/medical decisions for the grandchild.
  • Select an alternate guardian to care for the grandchild in the event the grandparent is unable to continue to provide care.

What is grandchild adoption?

When a grandparent permanently adopts a grandchild, the grandparent gains all parental rights and responsibilities, thereby extinguishing the rights of the child’s birth parents. When the adoption process is completed, the grandparent will become the legal “parent” of the grandchild.

This arrangement can benefit the child by providing a sense of stability, especially if the birth parents are unable to properly care for the child (e.g. if a birth parent is young and unprepared for parenthood).