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Grandparents Assuming Parental Responsibilities

Posted on in Child Custody

b2ap3_thumbnail_guardian-minor-children-600x400.jpgSometimes, parents prove unwilling or unable to take care of their children. In these scenarios, there are several options for the children to receive care, but one that is becoming increasingly common is for a grandparent or grandparents to step in. A decade ago, there were around 100,000 grandparents raising their grandchildren in Illinois, and the number has only risen since then. If you are in a position where you may decide to raise your grandchildren, there is a process to follow to ensure everything is legally sound.

Obtaining Physical Custody and Parental Responsibilities

There are several different options for grandparents to obtain decision-making power over their grandchildren, as well as physical custody of the children. The most commonly used is to bring an action for parental responsibility under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA). There are two scenarios under this law in which a grandparent could conceivably obtain physical custody. The first is if the child is not in the physical custody of their parent—if the parents are both deceased, for example, or if one or both parents voluntarily abandoned the child. The second is if one parent is deceased and the other is missing or incarcerated. If either of these applies to your family situation, the IMDMA is likely the best law under which to bring your petition.

However, if neither of these scenarios is applicable, meaning that the child is still in the custody of one or both of their parents, and there has been no willing relinquishment of those parental responsibilities, other areas of Illinois law may serve the situation better. Most often, these cases will fall under the Juvenile Court Act, wherein a parent must be proved unfit for a grandparent to gain custody.

Potential Issues

While physical custody is usually a fairly clear-cut issue under whichever law is relevant to your case, permanent allocation of parental responsibilities can be more complex, and it is much more likely that this could be challenged, especially if one or both parents are still in the picture. There are also other issues, such as the question of where a child attends school and whether or not medical insurance can be obtained for them by their grandparent.

Illinois is one of the few states in which parental rights can actually be regained after losing them, though it is a difficult and laborious process. The burden of proof is high, but it is still important to know that reinstatement of parental rights is possible. Issues of a financial or clerical nature are more likely to occur. Perhaps the most common in Illinois is dealing with school district placement, which can be especially problematic due to common misunderstandings about the law. A grandparent cannot move a child into his or her home solely for the purpose of allowing that child to attend a certain school. The Illinois School Code states, however, that the residence of the child’s legal custodian is considered their legal residence. As long as you can prove that you are the person with parental responsibilities for that child, it is enough to enroll the child.

Seek an Attorney’s Help

Taking in a grandchild can be both a rewarding and a frightening endeavor, especially at an advanced age. A good grandparent will do everything he or she can to make sure their grandchild is well taken care of, and that can include engaging a good family law attorney. The experienced Kane County child custody lawyers at Pucci Pirtle can answer your questions and help you provide the stability your grandchild deserves.



Kane County Bar Association Illinois State Bar Association McHenry County Bar Association



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