When someone falls victim to opioid dependency or another form of substance abuse, the silent victims are often family members who must cope with the absent loved one or even pick up the responsibilities the addict can no longer handle. More often these days, silent victims are the children of the addicts.
If your adult child is battling an opioid addiction, and you refuse to allow your grandchildren to shuffle through the Florida foster care program, you may be in the position that many grandparents are in these days: raising your grandchildren in your retirement years. In such cases, it is important that you understand your rights and limitations, and that you know where you can find support and advocacy.
Protecting your grandchild
Your grandchild may mean the world to you. Nevertheless, your rights regarding the child are limited unless you have a court order in place. Even if it has been months or longer since you have heard from the parents of the child, you may not have the authority to make important legal decisions for the child unless you have one of the following:
- Medical consent: The parents may grant you the authority to make medical decisions for the child while they are unable to. Without such permission, you may have to seek an emergency court order if your grandchild becomes ill or injured and needs medical care.
- Power of attorney: Similar to medical consent, POA gives you a broader range of decision-making power, but you may have difficulty obtaining this if the child’s parents are not living, not in contact with you or not competent to sign the legal documents. The parents retain full rights over the child and can revoke your POA at any time.
- Legal custody: The parents of your grandchild may willingly sign over legal custody to you, or you may have to prove to the court that you are the more fit guardian of the child. However, at any time, the parents may petition the court to reverse this decision.
- Guardianship: You may wish to seek this legal status if your grandchild’s parents have died or have been out of contact for a considerably long time.
More commonly, grandparents like you are seeking to adopt their grandchildren and raise them as their own. This is a serious and permanent step, and the courts consider it very carefully since it may entail severing the parental rights of the parents. This may have a profound emotional impact on the child.
In any of these situations, you want to be certain you have every advantage for a positive outcome. Seeking the guidance and advice of a skilled attorney can help you reach your goals.