Grandparents sometimes desire to obtain custody of their grandchildren for a variety of reasons, but usually because they feel that the children's home environment is not safe or appropriate, or because of an emergency situation such as the death of a parent. However, without parental consent, it can be very difficult for grandparents to gain custody. Occasionally, emergency situations arise which allow grandparents to file for temporary or emergency guardianship over their grandchildren. This can be a very difficult legal process, and it is highly recommended that grandparents looking to establish emergency guardianship contact an experienced, licensed attorney with experience in family law and child custody.
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Contact your state's bar association for a referral to a family law attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, the state bar association should be able to refer you to legal aid agencies or attorneys who offer pro bono services.
Obtain written, notarised consent from one or both of the children's parents, if possible. Courts are more likely to award guardianship rights to a grandparent with parental consent. A consent document should be a form or letter in which the parent consents to turn over his legal rights and duties as a parent to the grandparent. If desired, it can make provisions for the payment of child support to the grandparents.
Contact your local social services department if you believe that your grandchildren are being abused. Often, the social services department will file a dependency action asking that the child be placed with a grandparent. If social services will not file such an action, an attorney can help you file the action in court to petition for emergency custody.
File a petition for temporary guardianship or emergency custody with the advice and assistance of an attorney. You will need to allege grounds as to why it is in the best interest of the child that guardianship be granted to you.
Appear in court with your attorney. The court may hear testimony as to why emergency guardianship is justified. Make sure to consult with your attorney about what evidence you should bring with you to court.
Make plans for the future if you are awarded emergency guardianship. Consult with your attorney about the possibility of filing for permanent custody if this is something that you would consider at a later date.
Tips and warnings
- You should never attempt to obtain guardianship of a child without the advice of an attorney. The legal system is complicated, an attorney can help protect your rights and your grandchildren's rights.
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