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Grandparents' Rights: Part One, Power of Attorney

Tonight's post on Part One of Grandparents' Rights, Power of Attorney, was written by our Lawrenceville and Gainesville family law attorney, Jennifer Thuy-Tien McCall.

Grandparents often step in and help out with their grandchildren. Sometimes grandparents step in and help out a lot. Without the proper legal documents, the grandparents may run into difficulty enrolling the child in school or seeking medical care for the child. One legal tool to aid the grandparent who is assisting with the care of the grandchildren is a Grandparent Power of Attorney.

This Power of Attorney gives grandparents the legal authority to enroll the child in school, access the child's school information, give permission for school activities, participate in the child's educational planning, and arrange for the child's medical, dental, and psychological care.

The Grandparent Power of Attorney does not grant the grandparent legal custody of the child. It also does not affect the enforcement of a child support order. In later blog posts, I will address other grandparents' rights and other legal avenues for grandparents to obtain custody of their grandchildren.

A Grandparent Power of Attorney can only be given to a grandparent, not to other family members. It can be created in specific circumstances, such as when the parents become unable to care for the child due to a serious physical or mental condition, when the parents become homeless, or when the parent is about to enter a residential treatment program for substance abuse.

Note that it may not be created for the sole purpose of changing schools to be able to participate in certain academic or sports programs.

A Grandparent Power of Attorney is not effective if there is a proceeding pending to appoint a guardian or for the adoption of the child or if there is a divorce, legal separation, or annulment proceeding pending involving the child's parents. It is also not effective if there is a custody proceeding or if there are allegations that the child is neglected or abused or if there is a temporary custody order for emergency medical treatment or if the child is in shelter care and no hearing has yet been held.

The key is for the grandparents to spot the issue, know the opportunity and avoid the problem before it gets out of control. The key is to obtain a Grandparent Power of Attorney before DFCS swoops in, before the children are sent off to foster care, before the parents come to the attention of the state.

An attorney will analyze the situation to determine if both parents are required to consent. An attorney will also help you comply with drafting requirements and providing notice to other parties.

The Grandparent Power of Attorney is valid until the child stops living with the grandparent, the child dies, the grandparent dies, the Court terminates the Power of Attorney, or the parent revokes the Power of Attorney. The grandparent can attempt to contest the revocation.

Another possibility occurs if the grandchild is left in the care of the grandparent without the creation of the Power of Attorney and the grandparent does not know how to contact the parents. The grandparent may be eligible to create a Caretaker Authorization Affidavit.

If you're a grandparent assisting in the care of your grandchild, it is best to consult with an attorney to make sure you have the legal authority to take necessary steps in the care of your grandchild.

Be proactive. Obtain and thereby retain, the power.

Jennifer Thuy-Tien McCall

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