As a parent, you often do anything and everything you can to support your child in their struggle for a successful life. If your child has run into unexpected hardships, you may have to take over some of their responsibilities. For example, severe addiction, incarceration due to criminal charges or extreme medical conditions could all lead to a parent being physically or legally unable to care for their children.
You love your child, and you love your grandchildren as well. It is only natural to want to step in and assume those important parental duties when your child cannot perform them. While stepping up immediately to fill that role is the kind and natural thing to do, an informal arrangement will not offer you or the children much protection.
You may want to formally adopt your grandchildren to legally step into the role of parent. Doing so can help you connect with more supports and protect your role in the lives of your grandchildren. If you don’t, there could be any number of issues in the future.
If you don’t have a formal agreement, the state may not respect your position as a grandparentThe complication of formally adopting your grandchildren that no one likes to discuss is the fact that it usually involves the termination of your child’s legal relationship with the children. That can be an emotional minefield for your family to navigate. However, it may also be a necessary problem, as failing to formalize your circumstances could leave the state of Indiana to intervene.
In some cases, someone may contact the state out of concern for the children, and the state may come to your home and temporarily or permanently place the children in foster care. It is also possible for the other biological parents to interfere in your attempt to raise your grandchildren.
If the other parent shows up, you may not have any rights
Even if your child has been raising your grandchildren as a single parent for years, the other parent could come back and assert their parental rights at any time. Someone who has moved out of state, who was in the military and therefore overseas, who had been in jail or who had no interest in parenting can show up out of the blue and take legal action to establish themselves as the parent they have never been.
Unless your relationship to the children is protected through the formal adoption of your grandchildren, the rights of the biological parent will trump your informal rights. In this situation, it is likely that the children will wind up at least having some parenting time with the other biological parents. You may even share custody with the parents.
If you did not take steps to adopt your grandchildren and they are now living in the custody of the other parents, you may be able to seek visitation with your beloved grandchildren under Indiana law.