Grandparents: What to know if you want to adopt a grandchild

When people think about adopting a child, they often think about a young parent or couple looking to start or expand their family. However, there are millions of grandparents taking on the role of parent today.

Often, grandparents seek to adopt grandchildren not out of a desire to become parents again but out of necessity and to protect the children. In these situations, there can be some difficult emotions and problematic relationships that can make adoption by grandparents (or other relatives) quite complicated.

Why grandparents may adopt

Adoption is not necessary in all difficult situations, particularly if the situation is temporary. For instance, military deployment or period of incarceration may warrant the need for grandparents to serve as caregivers, but not necessarily to adopt.

Situations, when adoption can be crucial, include the death of a parent or if a parent poses a threat to a child’s safety and well-being. Under these circumstances, there should be an adult who can make legal decisions for a child and provide necessary care. If parents are unwilling or unable to do this, grandparents may petition the courts to terminate existing parental rights so that they can legally assume child custody and adopt a grandchild.

Who must consent to the adoption?

For anyone to adopt a child, including the child’s grandparents, Pennsylvania laws state that the child’s natural mother and the child’s natural father must give consent if they can and have parental rights. If the child is older than 12, he or she must also consent.

Some exceptions and situations complicate consent matters. For instance, complications can arise if the natural father cannot be found or if the natural mother’s husband is not the natural father of the child. Additionally, in some situations, including involuntary termination of parental rights, parental consent is not necessary.

Navigating this issue with legal guidance

Considering these and other complexities of grandparent adoption, grandparents or parents must understand their legal options and rights in Pennsylvania. This can indeed be a difficult situation, and having the advice of an attorney experienced in adoption matters can be vital.

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