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Should I get legal custody of my grandchild?

As a grandparent, it can be heartbreaking to watch your grandchild be raised in a high-risk environment. It is likely that you have some insight into the behaviors that the child's parents engage in, and this might concern you. If you believe that your grandchild's parents are suffering from addiction, or are neglecting or abusing your grandchild, you should make sure that you take action to protect them.

It is estimated that one in 10 children live with a grandparent in the United States. This arrangement may be in place for many reasons, but the common denominator is that living with a grandparent is in the child's best interests. You do not need to go through the often-lengthy process of adoption to successfully care for your grandchild. It can be possible to informally care for your grandchild, but gaining legal custody is often a wise decision.

What are the risks of informal guardianship?

If you are acting as a guardian of your grandchild but you do not have legal custody, this could be a risky situation to be in. It is likely that you are taking care of your grandchild because their parents are not able to do so adequately for one reason or another.

If you do not have legal custody, the parents still have the right to prevent you from seeing your grandchild if a conflict arises. In other words, informal guardianship puts you at risk of losing access to your grandchild if their parents become jealous or defensive of the care you are providing.

What are the advantages of legal custody?

Gaining legal custody of your grandchild can provide you with a safety net if a conflict arises. It can also provide a sense of stability and structure for the child and allow you the ability to make necessary medical and educational decisions. A court may also grant you financial support through a child support order.

If you intend to take care of your grandchild permanently, you should make sure that you use the laws in Ohio to guarantee that the relationship you have with your grandchild is protected.

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Rising Star Susan M. Suriano WBA OHIO Women's Bar Association Woman Lawyer of Franklin County Young Leaders of Licking County

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