Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Guide
About Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Grandparents may be required to step into the role of primary caretaker in the absence of a parent, due to substance abuse, mental health issues, incarceration, military deployment, death, or other circumstances.
Common needs of grandparents raising grandchildren include financial assistance, legal aid, access to information about available resources, and emotional and psychological support. Grandparents may need help navigating the school system, child care, and other aspects of daily life. Various issues related to grandparents raising grandchildren may include:
- Grandparents may need to become legal guardians.
- Grandparents may need to take on the responsibility of enrolling the child in school.
- Grandparents may need to secure medical, dental, and mental health care for the child.
- Grandparents may need to address child support or custody issues.
- Grandparents may need to establish visitation rights with the parents or other relatives.
Legal Issues Related To Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Grandparents in Louisiana have visitation rights in certain circumstances. A grandparent can file a petition in court to ask for visitation rights if they meet one or more of the following:
- The grandparent's child (the parent of the grandchild) has died.
- The grandchild has been abandoned by his or her parents.
- The grandchild's parents are divorced or separated.
- The grandchild's parents have been divorced or separated for at least six months.
- The grandparent has had a significant and positive relationship with the grandchild for at least one year prior to the filing of the petition.
In addition to filing a petition for visitation rights, the grandparent must also provide proof to the court of the facts stated in their petition. The court will then make a decision based on the best interests of the child. The request will be granted only if the judge believes visitation would be in the best interest of the grandchild according to the following factors:
- The length and quality of the prior relationship between the grandchild and grandparent;
- Whether the grandchild is in special care and guidance which the grandparent can best provide;
- The grandchild expresses a preference on whether or not to visit and is not sufficiently mature;
- Whether the grandparent will improperly use the visitation to poison the grandchild's feelings for the parents; and
- The mental and physical health of the grandchild and grandparent.
Learn more about visitation by visiting the resource Custody and Visitation Rights for Grandparents.
Grandparent custody rights in Louisiana are determined by the court on a case-by-case basis. A grandparent may be able to obtain custody from the parent if the grandparent can show that the parent is not capable of providing the necessary care and support for the child. This may include a situation in which the parent is neglectful, abusive, or has a substance abuse problem. In such cases, the grandparent may be able to file a petition in court to get custody. Other circumstances, such as military deployment may also allow a grandparent to seek custody.
In order for a grandparent to seek custody of a grandchild, they must prove that it is in the best interest of the child. Factors that the court may consider include the bond between the grandparent and grandchild, the grandparent’s lifestyle, the ability to provide a safe and secure home, and the grandparent’s financial situation. Additionally, the court may consider any other factors that are relevant to the case.
Learn more about custody by visiting the resource Custody and Visitation Rights for Grandparents.
If both parents agree that the grandparents should have custody of the child, they may sign a Voluntary Transfer of Custody. This document is an agreement that transfers custody from the parents to the grandparents and is signed by the judge. It can be permanent or temporary. If the parents end up changing their minds about the custody arrangement after the document has been approved by the judge, the parents must obtain the approval of the judge before custody can be returned to them. If one of the parents is unwilling to agree to the transfer of custody, the court could refuse to sign the document. Even a parent who has not had any meaningful contact with the child and is not listed on the birth certificate or has not signed a document declared to be the parent has the right to be given legal notice of the proposed transfer. A notice is not required only if the identity of the other parent is truly unknown.
Provisional Custody by Mandate is a Power of Attorney by which a parent may authorize a grandparent to provide care for the grandchild. The document must be signed in front of two witnesses and a notary. It can have a duration of up to one (1) year and can be revoked at any time by the parent. The document does not transfer legal custody and does not have to be approved by a judge. It merely allows the grandparent to do such things as enroll the grandchild in school or obtain medical care for the grandchild.
Grandparents should check with individual school boards to determine if that parish will allow the child to be enrolled with Provisional Custody by Mandate or whether the grandparent will need legal custody to enroll the grandchild in school.
Louisiana does have a law that allows doctors and schools to provide services for a grandchild without the parent’s consent if the grandparent signs an affidavit stating the grandchild lives with the grandparent and the grandparent is unable to contact the parents after reasonable efforts. However, the decision to provide services based on that affidavit is left up to the doctor or the school.
Learn more by visiting the resource Provisional Custody By Mandate.
A grandparent may need help with their rights to the adoption of their grandchild. Grandparent adoption in Louisiana requires a petition to be filed with the court by the grandparent. The petition must include proof that the grandparent is suitable and responsible to provide a safe and nurturing home for the child. The court will consider the best interests of the child when considering the petition. The court may also require the child's parents to be notified. Additionally, the court may require a home study and may also require consent from the child's parents. If the court approves the adoption, the grandparent must complete an adoption report.
Adoption is very different from legal custody. If a grandparent adopts a grandchild, the parent’s rights are terminated. The parent will no longer have the right to visit or the obligation to support their child. In contrast, if the grandparent is awarded legal custody, the parent still has a right to visit the grandchild and an obligation to financially support the grandchild.
Grandparents may adopt their grandchildren when the parents voluntarily surrender their parental rights. Additionally, grandparents may adopt their grandchildren in the following circumstances:
- The grandparent has had physical or legal custody of the grandchild for at least six months prior to filing for the adoption and granted custody and either:
- The parents have refused or failed to comply with a court order of support without just cause for
- a period of at least six months; or
- The parents have refused or failed to visit, communicate, or attempt to communicate with the grandchild without just cause for at least six months; and
- The adoption is in the best interest of the child.
A grandparent may need help accessing public benefits to help with financial support while raising and providing for a grandchild. There are numerous public benefit programs that may help a grandparent with various forms of assistance including assistance with cash benefits, health benefits, food benefits, and other senior benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The Department of Social Services offers two major programs that most commonly intersect with the needs of grandfamilies in Louisiana: Relative Foster Care and Kinship Care Subsidies. The Department offers other programs and benefits that parents and relatives raising children can receive if they meet the eligibility criteria of that particular program. In addition, grandparents raising grandchildren can approach other state agencies to receive supportive services such as health insurance and medical assistance (Medicaid) administered by the Louisiana Department of Health.
Learn more by visiting the resource About Public Benefits.
The following is a list of resources and support for grandparents raising children. The websites and resources offer information on legal issues, financial assistance, health care and other topics.
- The Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs has a legal self-help page on its website at goea.la.gov. The legal self-help page lists the top websites for seniors as well as brochures on numerous topics that can be read or printed.
- Department of Children and Family Services
627 N. Fourth Street Baton Rouge, LA 70802
- Report Child Abuse: 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437) toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a week
- DCFS Customer Service Center: 1-888-LAHELP-U (1- 888-524-3578)
- EBT Card Customer Service: 1-888–997-1117
- For medical benefits for an eligible child 1-877 -252-2447 or Website: http://www.lachip.org