Raising grandkids in Florida? Take steps to protect both them and you

The number of children living with their grandparents has been on the rise in recent years, with the latest Census showing that one out of every 10 U.S. kids lived with a grandparent in 2010. While some children live in multigenerational households with both their parents and grandparents, many others rely solely on a grandparent for care and support.

Legal obstacles for grandparents

Caring for a grandchild, while deeply rewarding, can also be intensely challenging - especially for older individuals who may have thought their child-rearing days were behind them. In many cases, one of the most difficult aspects of caring for a grandchild can be the lack of clarity regarding the grandparent's legal rights and responsibilities with regard to the child.

In Florida, grandparents' rights are generally fairly limited unless specific steps are taken to establish a legal relationship with the child. As a result, grandparents in Florida often lack many of the legal benefits and protections that are afforded to parents under state law, even if the grandparents provide all of a child's care and support.

For grandparents with childcare responsibilities, establishing a legal relationship with the child can help provide clarity and security for grandparent and grandchild alike.

Child custody rights

Even when grandparents have been caring for a child for a long time, they may be at risk of losing custody of the child if his or her parents decide to take the child back. In some cases, the parent may even prevent the grandparents from seeing or having contact with the child, which can be devastating to both the child and his or her grandparents. Establishing a legal relationship between the child and grandparents can help prevent these types of situations by giving the grandparents a right to be involved in the child's life.

Medical care and education

Another important consideration for Florida grandparents is their ability to make important decisions affecting the child's care and upbringing. For example, a grandparent may have difficulty enrolling the child in school or obtaining medical care for the child, because these decisions are typically reserved for the child's parents. Establishing custody or legal guardianship of a grandchild can give grandparents the legal authority to make these and other important decisions on the child's behalf.

A child custody lawyer can help

Depending on the circumstances, there may be several legal options available to grandparents caring for their grandchildren in Florida. These may include:

  • Temporary legal custody.
  • Long-term legal custody.
  • Legal guardianship.
  • Adoption.
  • Court-ordered placement.

Because the laws affecting grandparents' rights in Florida are highly complex, it is important to seek professional guidance from a knowledgeable family law attorney if you have questions about your legal rights and responsibilities with regard to a grandchild. An attorney with experience in grandparent custody rights can answer your questions and help you understand your legal options when caring for a grandchild in Florida.