Multigenerational family living arrangements are now commonplace across South Carolina and around the country. Economic constraints, like dual-income families unable to afford daycare, and higher costs of living are a big driving force behind this development, as are:
- The trend of parents going back to school later in life to further their career prospects
- Couples choosing not to marry until older (if at all)
- One parent being deceased, estranged, incarcerated or addicted
In some circumstances, the grandparents will live in a home with their children and grandchildren. In others, however, the grandparents are actually the primary caregivers without the presence of the parents at all (or only intermittently). If that is the case, grandparents may want to look into the process of formally adopting their grandchildren.
Adoption confers legal rights superior to those of a mere caregiver or even a custodian. It also severs the parenting relationship of neglectful or abusive parents, allowing the grandparent to become, for most intents and purposes, the child's "real" parent.
Adoptive grandparents will have the same legal rights as parents after the adoption is formalized. This means they can:
- Make decisions regarding where the child will live
- Handle medical and educational determinations
- Oversee access to the child (i.e., deciding what amount of time a child should spend with a biological parent who is addicted to drugs or alcohol or who has been abusive)
- Determine a child's religious upbringing
- Seek financial assistance from government programs like SNAP or Medicaid
Because the courts of South Carolina and other states prefer to place children with family members whenever possible, grandparent adoptions usually proceed quicker and with less "drama" than some other types of adoptions. Things can still be tricky, though, particularly if one parent is reluctant to sign away his or her parental rights. This is where a skilled grandparent adoption attorney's help is invaluable. Attorneys who regularly practice in this field understand the nuances, legal technicalities and requirements necessary for a successful proceeding.
If you are a grandparent considering adoption of your minor grandchild, contact an experienced lawyer in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options.