Custody - should I be worried at all?

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by HereWeGoAgain, Apr 2, 2007.

  1. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa

    I'm about 99.9% sure that this will never amount to anything, but there's that 0.1% in the back of my mind.

    About two years ago my wife and I were awarded legal guardianship of our granddaughter. According to the research I did at the time, this is the highest level we can go to. Bio parents - mother is our difficult child daughter, father is her ex-b/f who dropped out of sight about 5 minutes after learning she was pregnant - have no legal say-so in any life decisions whatsoever.

    So I was drving difficult child to court the other day and she told me about a conversation with one of her counselors. This woman told difficult child that she could see her a year or two down the road living "with your girl, just the two of you" and working "in a hospital drawing blood". difficult child was unduly impressed because she says the other girls on her unit think this woman is a "prophet" (huh?! not comfortable with this!) and there was "no way she (the counselor) could have known" that difficult child had a little girl and had once earned a certificate in phlebotomy. (The counselor probably looked at difficult child's assessment interview record, I imagine.)

    Part of difficult child's problem with reality is that she has this fantasy of raising her daughter on her own, in spite of the fact that she can't handle her for more than an hour or two at a time. The fantasy resurfaces when she's been in recovery a month or two and is not usually very intense, as in something constantly in the front of her mind, but it's there in the back of her mind. Once in a while she has lashed out at us and accused us of "stealing" her girl.

    What bugs me is the thought of people encouraging this fantasy the way the counselor apparently did and of some busybody in the system (the center difficult child is at is a quasi-state run institution; it works closely with the courts) getting the idea that difficult child "needs" to have her daughter and deciding to take us to court or assist her or encourage her in taking us to court. I don't think we'd be vulnerable to having the guardianship revoked without cause but I've read horror stories.

    difficult child gave up her parental rights voluntarily. The judge had us leave the courtroom and interviewed her privately to make sure it was not done under duress.

    Am I right in thinking that guardianship is ironclad and irrevocable unless we are proved unfit? Should I dismiss that nagging 0.1% doubt?
  2. 'Chelle

    'Chelle Active Member

    I'm no lawyer, and maybe you should talk to one to set your mind at rest. I do think that she could apply to regain her parental rights and custody, unless the court had decreed when naming you guardians that she couldn't. She would probably have to be at least a year sober and stable, maybe more. By that time your granddaughter would probably be 8 or older, and the court would take that into consideration and possibly ask where she'd rather live, before just changing any custody. This is all just supposition from a couple of custody battles people I know have gone through. A family lawyer is who you should ask.
  3. SunnyFlorida

    SunnyFlorida Active Member

    Ewwwwwwwwww. I'm not likin' this one. First of all, I would want my mind settled that difficult child does not have the rights to get your grand daughter back. Second, what are your thoughts of talking with your difficult child's counselor and discussing whether her conversation was appropriate.
  4. kris

    kris New Member

    <span style='font-size: 14pt'> <span style='font-family: Georgia'> <span style="color: #333399"> sorry, but guardianship is not irrevokable. as a matter of fact the courts tend to favor reunification no matter how bad an idea it is. now if she had terminated her parental rights then she would not, in all liklihood, be able to regain custody.

    you need to document every single interaction your daughter has with-your grandchild. i would also consult with-a family practice attorney sooner rather than later. the more prep you do now the surer ground you will be on when/if the time comes to fight her. keep all school records as well as visitation history.

    caseworker is a profit huh? :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:. okay, i'm getting a headache from all the eye rolling. they are certainly a gullible group, aren't they? of course she has their records!!! :grrr:

    </span> </span> </span>
  5. KFld

    KFld New Member

    I agree, keep records of her visits and look into what you can do now. Don't wait!!
  6. HereWeGoAgain

    HereWeGoAgain Grandpa


    Well it's a good thing I asked. It looks like I better get it in gear. It doesn't ever pay to bury nagging doubts when it comes to difficult children, does it?

    OK, I am doing some of this stuff already. History from 1994 to present is documented in detail. School records of grandbaby being preserved.

    To do: keep records on visitations and schedule appointment with a family law lawyer soon. The lady we used two years ago was very good.

    Meanwhile, I've been brushing up again. Here are the "levels" in order from most rights to least with respect to grandparents raising grandchildren, a situation that is far more common today than at any time in history. Disclaimer: this is just my understanding of the law in Illinois and is subject to correction by people who know what they're talking about.

    1. Full adoption. All parental rights are vested in adoptive parents. Cannot be revoked except in cases of abuse or neglect such as would terminate a natural parent's rights.

    2. Guardianship of person and estate (what we have). Guardians make all life decisions such as schooling, religion, social activities, medical treatments, etc. and are obligated to provide all necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter up to age 18 (guardianship of the person); exercise control over assets, earnings, and any money received and manage it to the ward's benefit up to age 18 (guardianship of the estate). Can be revoked but only by petitioning the court and showing cause.

    3. Guardianship of person but not estate, or vice/versa. Can be revoked by petitioning the court and showing cause.

    4. Full custody. Depending on how the court rules, the parent may exercise some authority in life decisions and have rights to visitation. The particulars are always open to being changed on petition to the court.

    5. Joint custody. Decisions and physical custody of the child are shared, either by all living together or by alternating.

    6. Court-ordered visitation. This might be ordered if the parents have tried to withhold access for some reason. Courts tend to favor the parents over the grandparents unless the parents are pretty flagrantly in the wrong.

    7. And lastly, nada, zip, nothing. The parents can and often do use the threat of denying access to the child(ren) to extort money and favors, and there is nothing the grandparent can do about it legally.

    So the difference between adoption and guardianship is that revocation of guardianship has to meet a lower standard than termination of adoptive parent's rights. In other words, if I understand this correctly, adoptive rights cannot be revoked even in the child's "best interest" so long as the child is not actually being harmed, whereas the "best interest" criterion would apply to guardianship. It is possible, as Kris said, that some misguided judge could decide that our grandbaby needs to be "re-"unified (even though they never were on their own together in the first place) with difficult child no matter how stupid an idea it is.

    I think our position is pretty safe, with the documentation of difficult child's history, and becomes safer with each passing year. But I've been jolted out of complacency (thanks, you all!) and will be keeping meticulous records visitation records (detailing broken promises, no-shows, tardies, etc.) and seriously considering the adoption route, though that could get very messy and costly.

    As for this "prophetic" case worker, I'm not sure what to do about her. I don't want to call attention to that remark by making a stir; and difficult child has been known to misremember and/or dramatize before. I think I'll wait and see if there is a pattern of this kind of talk.

    Again, thanks for the words of wisdom -- they are very much appreciated! :salute:
  7. kris

    kris New Member

    <span style='font-size: 14pt'> <span style='font-family: Georgia'> <span style="color: #333399"> ....and with-the *prophet* in the picture now is not the time to approach difficult child about surrendering her parental rights. if/when she falls again....that might be the time if you want to go that direction. she'll just get said profit all worked up about her reagining custody of her daughter if you broach this now.

    hang in.

    </span> </span> </span>
  8. Jen

    Jen New Member

    I tend to agree that the courts may sway their minds in her favor as the mother of this child if she does what is expected. The lawyers could always argue for her that she was ill at the time she made the decision. Now if this was a son thinking this way, I dont feel from personal expereince, that they courts would give him custody.

    I think the fantasy land is just that, but it is also a protective mechanism for the mind when all else fells just to somehow get by adn exhist...right or wrong.