Custody And Adoption Of Your Grandchildren
Can You Apply For Custody Of Your Grandchildren?
The term custody does not exist anymore - it is now known as a 'Residence Order'. The only manner in which you can obtain Parental Responsibility for your grandchildren is by obtaining a Residence Order (formerly known as Custody) or Special Guardianship Order.
What Does Parental Responsibility Mean?
Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility for their children along with the father if he was married to the mother. Parental Responsibility has also been given to unmarried fathers whose name was on the birth certificate from 1st December 2003 onwards.
Parental Responsibility means you are responsible for the child’s welfare and make all the major decisions involved in their upbringing. Following family breakdown, grandparents can find themselves caring for grandchildren and eventually taking over the parental role completely although, grandparents themselves do not automatically have Parental Responsibility, and the only manner in which you can obtain Parental Responsibility for your grandchildren is by a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order.
If you are bringing up your grandchildren and they have been living with you for three years or more, you can apply for a Residence Order. If they have not been living with you for three years, you can still apply to the court for permission to apply for a Residence Order. A Residence Order says whom the child is to live with and gives you Parental Responsibility for the child until he or she is aged 16. While a Residence Order is in place, you share Parental Responsibility with the child’s parents.
Special Guardianship Order
A Special Guardianship Order is more secure than a Residence Order since the parents cannot discharge it without permission of the court. The order appoints one or more individuals to be the child’s “Special Guardian” and is a private law order made under the Children’s Act 1989. It is less secure than an Adoption Order since it does not dissolve the relationship between the child and their birth parents.
Can You Adopt Your Grandchild?
Adopting your grandchild is the most permanent form of becoming a parent to your grandchildren.
On adoption all Parental Rights and responsibilities transfer from the birth parents to the new adoptive parents. Contact with the birth parents will then very much depend on the needs of the child and in some cases can be completely discontinued.
As with all issues concerning care for children when parents are unable to look after them, individual circumstances vary according to the nature of the family break-up, the age of the child/ren and grandparents, and the needs of the child to have contact with their birth parents. Adoption is a very serious step and it is essential to seek legal advice from an experienced family solicitor.
Adopting a member of your own family can be problematic. Once you adopt your grandchild, you will become their mother or father and their biological mother becomes their sister. Any subsequent children she might have will become the grandchild’s nieces and nephews. Understandably, this could be confusing and upsetting for a child who has probably already been through a traumatic family break up.
In view of this you may wish to consider other measures first such as a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order as described above.
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