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Adoption Questions: I am caring for my grandchild, do I have legal custody?

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Hi, Steve Kirsh and a very tired Yogi here with the answer to today’s adoption question. The question is: “I am the grandparent of a child. The mother of the child has left the child with me, and I do not have any legal custody. What do I need to do?”

The answer is, you need to get some sort of legal authority to have the child. Being a caretaker of a child is ok, if you are talking about a day or two. But, once that child has been with you for a number of days, weeks, months, or years, if you do not have legal custody the parent of the child could come back and take the child away from you, and you would have no protection.

So, at the very least, if you have custody of a child, you want to have yourself appointed guardian of the child. That would allow you to obtain insurance coverage for the child. It would allow you the protection knowing the child would not leave your care without further court order.

Furthermore, there was a recent Indiana Supreme Court case. It was The Adoption of B.C.H., in which a grandparent was taking care of a child for a number of years. The birth parent of the child decided to have her new husband adopt the child, and they did so, tried to do so without the consent of the grandparent who had had custody of the child for a long time, but without legal custody. Fortunately, for the grandparent, the Indiana Supreme Court held that the grandparent needed to be involved in the adoption process. The Indiana Supreme Court held that “lawful custody” was any custody arrangement, even though it was not court ordered, that was not unlawful.

But, you do not want to find yourself contesting a case all the way through the trial court, Indiana Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court to find out that you have some right. The best procedure would be to have yourself appointed guardian of the child, or if your child is willing, and it is your intention, you could adopt the child.

I hope that is helpful. If you have any other questions Yogi and I are always here to answer them. Thank you.

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