Grandparents raising grandchildren


By Sean M. Abbott - Guest Columnist



It is quite common today to see grandparents raising their grandchildren as their primary caretakers. While there are differing reasons for this, ranging from drug use or inability to care for the child, various legal issues arise when grandparents are the primary caretakers. Most notably, without properly executed legal documents a grandparent is unable to enroll their grandchild in school or make important medical decisions regarding the grandchild.

Fortunately, there are options available which allow grandparents to obtain the legal authority to make educational and medical decisions for their grandchild:

1. Grandparent Power of Attorney

If the location of the child’s parents is known, the parents and grandparent may execute a grandparent power of attorney. A grandparent power of attorney allows the grandparent to do the following:

* enroll the child in school

* obtain from the school district educational and behavioral information about the child

* consent to all school-related matters regarding the child

* consent to medical, psychological, or dental treatment for the child

A grandparent power of attorney must be signed by the child’s parents, signed by the grandparent, notarized, and filed in the juvenile court of the county where the grandparent resides. The juvenile court may refuse to accept the power of attorney if it has reason to believe it is not in the best interests of the child.

A grandparent power of attorney is temporary and can be revoked at any time by the child’s parents and terminates automatically if the child ceases to live with the grandparent.

A power of attorney form may be obtained from the Fayette County Juvenile Court located on the second floor at the Fayette County Court House, 110 E. Court St., Washington Court House, Ohio.

2. Caretaker Authorization Affidavit

If a child is living with the grandparent and the grandparent has tried, but cannot locate the parents of the child, the grandparent may execute a caretaker authorization affidavit.

A caretaker authorization affidavit allows the grandparent to do the following:

* exercise care, physical custody, and control of the child

* enroll the child in school

* discuss with the school district the child’s educational progress

* consent to all school-related matters regarding the child

* consent to medical, psychological, or dental treatment for the child

A caretaker authorization affidavit must be signed by the grandparent, notarized, and filed in the juvenile court of the county where the grandparent resides. The juvenile court may refuse to accept the caretaker authorization affidavit if it has reason to believe it is not in the best interests of the child.

A caretaker authorization affidavit is temporary and terminates if the child ceases to reside with grandparent.

A caretaker authorization affidavit form may be obtained from the Fayette County Juvenile Court located on the second floor at the Fayette County Court House, 110 E. Court St., Washington Court House, Ohio.

3. Legal Custody Proceeding

If you wish to seek a more permanent custody option, grandparents may file a complaint asking for legal custody be granted to the grandparents. This is the most permanent and most difficult option.

An award of legal custody to grandparents will vest in them all rights of the parents and removes the rights of the natural parents. The person granted legal custody is entitled to make all important decisions for the child, including educational and medical decisions.

If you desire to seek legal custody, it is strongly advised you seek the assistance of an attorney.

This article is designed to inform grandparents of the legal options available and is not intended to be legal advice. It is strongly encouraged you seek the guidance of an attorney to complete a grandparent power of attorney, caretaker authorization affidavit, or legal custody proceedings.

Sean M. Abbott is an assistant prosecuting attorney at the Fayette County Prosecutor’s Office.

By Sean M. Abbott

Guest Columnist