What are ways to Raise Grandchildren in Massachusetts if the Parents are unable, unwilling or unavailable?
One, is there is an unformal process where it is a temporary situation, but you have no legal authority, nor do you have legal authority to sign anything at the school or with the doctors. The parents have legal recourse and you don’t have any legal rights with that situation.
The next step up is called a “Caregiver’s Authorization” where in Massachusetts there is an Affidavit called a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. It gives the grandparents or another family member or person the right to make decisions about the child’s education and medical care. It can at least allow you as a grandparent or other family members some legal authority in terms of school, doctors and things of that nature. The advantages are you don’t need to go to court and it does not necessarily have to be an adversarial relationship. The negative is that the parent(s) can revoke the Affidavit at anytime and you do not have full legal rights.
Another option is to file a Guardianship in Probate and Family Court unless the families are involved in Juvenile Court usually with a DCF Case. You can seek a Guardianship in Juvenile Court as well. You would have to show in Family and Probate Court that your grandchild’s parents are either unfit or unavailable to care for the child or unwilling.
There are a variety of forms that you would need to fill out and you can seek temporary custody and even permanent custody. Permanent custody though is not the way that it sounds; where in the future either the parents can go back to court and say that there is a change in circumstances and where the parent is now able and fit to care for their child; unless it is a guardianship with termination.
There are also adoptions, and this is if you are looking to adopt your grandchild. It means that the parents parental rights would need to be terminated. There could be an open adoption that would be allowed. It is more complicated because the parents have a lot of constitutional protections. It can be one though both in guardianships and adoptions where the parents consent or assent to the guardianship or the adoption. It is a very formal process and there are a variety of steps that need to be taken.
What Does Paternity Mean and What is Parentage?
In Massachusetts Paternity means fatherhood. It is considered a complaint to establish paternity. There does appear to be some change towards some language that may occur soon saying parentage rather than fatherhood.
In Massachusetts if the parents are unmarried then paternity needs to be established or parentage. If the parties are married, paternity is established in most cases. There can be an acknowledgment of paternity and paperwork done on that part if both parties are in agreement or there can be DNA testing or even a trial regarding paternity or parentage.