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When should you seek guardianship of a grandchild in Illinois?

Are you a grandparent who is raising your grandchild because their parents are unable to? You aren't alone. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) says that more than 100,000 grandparents in the state are in the same situation.

In some situations, grandparents are able to obtain legal custody or formally adopt their grandchildren. However, many choose to seek guardianship rights instead.

What is guardianship?

Guardianship grants you the authority to make the day-to-day decisions regarding your grandchild's care. It means that you have the legal right to decide where the child lives and goes to school and things like what medical care they receive.

Obtaining guardianship confers formal rights to you over your grandchild's future and enables you to receive benefits for that child, apply for financial assistance from the state and obtain respite care.

When is seeking guardianship of a grandchild a good idea?

If you firmly believe that your grandchild's parents are unable or unwilling to manage the daily responsibilities of caring for your grandchild for any reason, that's when it's time to ask the court for guardianship.

Some of the most common situations that give rise to guardianship requests include situations where the parents are:

  • In jail and expected to remain so for a significant period of time
  • Suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Suffering from a mental illness
  • Unable to be located

You can also apply for guardianship if the parents have abandoned the child with others.

The court usually presumes that parents are both capable of caring for their own children and willing to do so. Therefore, you need to be prepared to show the court evidence of your allegations.

It's never pleasant to ask the court to interfere with your own child's parental rights. However, if your grandchild's safety and well-being are at stake, it may be time.

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