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Sometimes grandparents step into the parenting role

Not all Wisconsin parents are able to take care of their children for a variety of reasons. Life doesn't always go as planned, and life's struggles can sometimes get the better of them. This can cause parents to exhibit a variety of behaviors toward their children that could harm them.

At this point, another relative, such as a grandparent, may step in to take over the care of the children. When it appears that this arrangement needs to become more permanent, a grandparent may need to figure out what legal options are available. If you are the grandparent in this scenario, knowing your rights and understanding what steps you may take could help.

Overcoming the rights of your children as parents

One of the things that makes this situation difficult for everyone is that you will be showing the court that your child is unfit to parent your grandchild. Even though you know it's the right thing to do, it may still be heartbreaking for you. In addition, courts hesitate to terminate parental rights without sufficient and compelling evidence. Below are the most common reasons that courts recognize as abuse:

  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Emotional abuse
  • Sexual abuse or exploitation

The evidence must show that one or more of these circumstances exist. Perhaps your child suffers from an addiction to alcohol or drugs or simply does not want to continue being a parent. You may find that your grandchild spends the majority of his or her time with you, and you provide for the child's basic needs on a regular basis. Whether by the design of your child or through the circumstances in his or her life, you are now parenting your grandchild.

What if the children are taken away from the parents?

In some cases, it becomes necessary for government agencies to remove children from neglectful or abusive homes, and the children end up "in the system." Fortunately, a 2008 federal law requires those agencies to contact relatives first to see if they are willing to take over the care of the child. Even if you haven't been the primary caretaker of your grandchild, if you have a close relationship with him or her, you may be the first person contacted.

You may become the child's foster parent, at least temporarily. If you want to make the arrangement more permanent, you will need to take additional steps.

Seeking custody without governmental intervention

At the very least, you would probably need to establish a guardianship over your grandchild in order to make decisions on his or her behalf. However, if you want to take things a step further and seek custody of your grandchild, you may need help. You will need to prove that one of the above circumstances exists and that your grandchild's best interests are better served in your care. If you have been providing significant care for him or her already, that helps your cause.

Obtaining custody of a grandchild does involve overcoming numerous hurdles, but it is not impossible. In order to increase your chances, you may want to make use of the legal resources available here in Waukesha.

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