Census data shows that over 2 million grandparents in the United States are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. Many grandparents end up raising their grandchildren because the natural parents have died, struggle with substance abuse or mental health, or because they have abused, abandoned, or neglected the child. Whatever the circumstances, many children are blessed to have their grandparents step up to provide love, support, and stability.
Compared to other adoptions, the Alabama Adoption Code makes the procedure for grandparents to adopt a little simpler. This goes for other close relatives as well: great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, great-aunts and -uncles, siblings, and half-siblings.
If you or someone you know is considering adopting their grandchildren, here are some things to keep in mind:
First, like a stepparent adoption, the adoptee must have resided with the grandparent for one year.
Second, if the grandparent is married, their spouse must be part of the petition as well. Step-grandparents get to be part of the process! To be clear, marriage is not a requirement; single grandparents, whether unmarried or widowed, can petition to adopt too.
Third, unless the rights of the natural parents have been terminated, their consent is required. Oftentimes, the natural parent who is the son or daughter of the petitioning grandparents is willing to consent. This is not always the case. And, getting the consent of the other natural parent may also be difficult. An attorney can help you navigate how to ask for consent. Open and honest communication with the natural parents is often the best route, and the first step. Sometimes getting express consent isn’t possible, but that is not the only path forward – especially if the natural parents have abandoned, abused, or neglected the child.
Perhaps you are a grandparent who has already been caring for your grandchild for several months or years. You have already been fulfilling that parental role, and you have taken on the financial and emotional responsibility for your grandchild. Maybe a court has even granted you legal custody. What would a grandparent adoption change or accomplish?
It can bring permanency to your grandchild’s life. Family circumstances can be ever-changing and unpredictable. Natural parents or other family members coming in and out of your grandchild’s life can be emotionally damaging, especially if there are long, regular periods of no contact and no effort. Children need stable relationships so that they can form healthy attachments in adulthood. When the adoption is finalized, you, the grandparents, are treated in every way, shape, and form as the adoptee’s parents. You will have the ability to keep your grandchild safe – physically, mentally, and emotionally – and your grandchild will know that your home is their home, permanently.
Adoption will also affect inheritance, insurance, and other benefits that can provide your grandchild with the resources they need.
And finally, adoption will solemnize the loving, parent-child bond that you have already formed with your grandchild, with all the legal protection and support you need.