What is Grandparent Adoption?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 14 January 2020
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Grandparent adoption occurs when a court assigned to supervise and decide family law matters allows the parents of a child’s mother or father to legally adopt the child in question. Such legal decisions are made to protect the child’s best interest and are usually the result of one or both natural parents being unable to provide proper day-to-day care for a child. In most jurisdictions, grandparent adoption differs from grandparent child custody or grandparent guardianship in that a legal adoption order removes all parental rights to the child and transfers these rights to the grandparents who are henceforth considered by law to be the true parents of the child.


Grandparent adoption is often necessary in cases of child abuse, the death of a child’s parents or when a parent is otherwise unable to take care of a child due to a severe mental or physical disability. In most jurisdictions, an unmarried or widowed grandparent may petition to adopt a child as well as grandparents who are married. Family law courts do not make these legal decisions lightly and due diligence is always performed to determine the natural parents' whereabouts, capacity to provide day-to-day care and to determine whether a natural parent is fit to parent or is likely to ever be fit to parent in the future. In many cases of grandparent adoption, the natural parents have passed away and guardianship responsibilities have already previously been granted to one or more grandparents before initiating legal adoption procedures.

Although naturally related to the child, grandparent adoption proceedings in most jurisdictions around the world still require some level of investigation to determine whether or not grandparents are fit for adoption. Often, such an investigation is performed while the child is living in the grandparents' home due to a temporary or permanent guardianship agreement. In many grandparent adoption cases, however, adoption fitness is assumed when a child has lived in the grandparents' care for a period of time without incident or without any indication of future harm to the child.

Grandparent adoption often prevents a child from being reared in an institutional setting, such as an orphanage, and is generally preferred over non-relative adoptions. Such adoptions allow children to maintain a sense of family despite disruptions in the natural parental relationships or in cases where natural parents are deceased. Grandparent adoption cases are independently evaluated and are only allowed when a magistrate receives satisfactory information to support that such a legal procedure is, in fact, in the child’s best interest.


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