Methuen Grandparents’ Rights Attorneys
When grandchildren dear to you are going through rough times, sitting on the sidelines is the last thing you want to do. You want to help your family; but how? What resources are available? And what actions can you take to ensure the well-being of your grandchildren?
Grandparents can be granted visitation if the grandchild's parents are unwed, separated, deceased, or divorced. For paternal grandparents, Massachusetts requires that the child's father acknowledge his paternity before they can petition for visitation. For maternal grandparents, visitation rights do not depend on the grandchild's paternity. However, in cases of adoption, grandparent visitation rights do not apply if the child has been adopted by a parent other than a stepparent.
To apply for visitation, a Petition for Grandparent(s) Visitation form must be filled out along with an Affidavit of Care and Custody. The affidavit requires the grandparents to describe not only their relationship with their grandchildren, but also how the child would suffer negative effects if the grandparents were not allowed to visit. To establish the best interests of the child, the court will consider:
- The child's age, mental health, and physical health
- The parent's mental and physical health
- The parent's lifestyle, such as whether he/she smokes indoors or abuses drugs
- The emotional bond between parent and child
- The parent's ability to provide the child's food, shelter, clothing, and medical care
- The child's quality of education
- The overall stability of the home environment
- The child's personal choice (usually if the child is 12 years or older)
In more severe cases, visitation is not enough, and the children need constant supervision or a more stable place to live. Each case is unique, and no one legal arrangement fits all families. Here are the four options when a grandparent is seeking custody:
- Informal: As the name implies, informal custody has no legal binding. This applies to temporary caretaking of grandchildren over short periods, similar to babysitting. This can be helpful if a parent is working and needs a grandparent to come over and look over the children. The grandparent has no authority to make any medical decisions for the grandchild.
- Caregiver: In the state of Massachusetts, the child's parents can sign a Caregiver Authorization Affidavit, which grants a selected person (in this case, a grandparent) decision-making power over a child's education and medical care. This scenario is best if the parents are temporarily unavailable to take care of their child, due to medical concerns (such as an accident or severe illness) or work-related absences. This authorization can be revoked by the parent at any time. Going to court is not required if the parent approves the arrangement.
- Guardianship: Sometimes, caretaking is not enough to provide for the child. In these cases, a grandparent can apply for guardianship of the child, which grants legal custody and a more permanent ability to ensure the child's well-being. To apply for guardianship, the grandparents need to provide the court with proof of the parent's inability or unfitness in caring for their grandchild. After the grandparents attain custody, however, the parents can still ask the court to have their child returned. It is the guardian's responsibility to tell the judge any additional information, such as whether the parents should be allowed to visit and why. The judge can then add provisions to the guardianship. In these proceedings, it's best to have a lawyer for your grandchild.
- Adoption: When a relative of the child, in this case the grandparents, adopts the child, this is known as kinship adoption. In an adoption, the child's parents' rights are terminated and transferred over to the grandparent. This means that the child's birth parents cannot appeal to the court for custody of their child. Adoption requires the parents' consent, or solid proof that they are unfit.
If you’re seeking custody of your grandchildren to get them out of a hostile environment, or to make medical and educational decisions when their parents are unable to, you need a caring and knowledgeable lawyer on your side. Our Massachusetts legal team at DiBella Law Offices, P.C., will assist you in attaining the best possible arrangement for you and your grandchild. Give our Methuen family law attorneys a call today at (978) 327-5140.
- Massachusetts Law About Grandparents' Visitation Rights
- Grandparents: Choices on Custody - Massachusetts Commission On The Status Of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren