Can I Adopt My Grandchild Without A Lawyer?

At times during life, circumstances arise in which grandparents obtain custody of their grandchild. For some, this is a temporary situation, but at times it can become permanent.

When the case moves towards adoption or permanency, many grandparents look for information about adopting grandchildren. This article will help those who find themselves in that situation and provide insight into how best to navigate it.

Can I Adopt My Grandchild Without a Lawyer?

Suppose you’re wondering can you adopt without a lawyer. In that case, the answer is that although it is possible to adopt a grandchild without a lawyer, it is recommended to obtain legal counsel to ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Family law is a complex legal area, and having a professional by your side can make an already stressful situation less so.

In some areas, grandparents can obtain permanency for their grandchildren through certain types of guardianship rather than adoption. Many forms of guardianship can be done without a guardianship lawyer. However, certain restrictions are in place with guardianship that is not with an adoption.

How do I get guardianship of my grandchild? Grandparents commonly ask this question in custody situations. To get guardianship of a grandchild, a petition must be filed with the court.

Typically a court hearing will follow, and information about the child’s wellbeing will be presented in front of a judge or referee. Whereas adoption often consists of home studies, background checks, extensive paperwork, and even fingerprinting, guardianship can usually be completed with a petition, a few documents, and the courts’ approval.

Why Grandparents May Adopt

If a child’s biological parents aren’t suitable for parenting due to substance abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or other factoring issues, or if the parents do not desire to have custody of their child, grandparents may step in and adopt. Adoption can also take place if the child’s biological parents are deceased or incarcerated.

At times, grandparents can obtain temporary guardianship. However, this type of guardianship is very temporary and can be revoked by the biological parents. Most POA’s expire after six months.

Why Aren’t More Grandparents Adopting Their Grandchildren?

Many factors play into the reasons why more grandparents don’t adopt their grandchildren. While some may be hesitant to do so because of health concerns or due to their age, there are other extenuating circumstances as well.


The amount of information that goes around can be confusing and lead grandparents to believe that they cannot adopt their grandchildren. But what is the process of adopting your grandchild? Since adoption rules and regulations can vary from state to state, what one situation warrants, another will not.


For many grandparents, there are financial concerns regarding the cost of adoption. While guardianship can often be accomplished for a relatively low cost, adoption can sometimes reach thousands of dollars.

How much does it cost to adopt my grandchild? This amount will vary depending on your specific situation. Whereas some children are placed with grandparents through the child welfare system, and adoption can be completed for very little to no cost at all, others come into their grandparent’s care by direct placement from the biological parent.

Depending on the circumstances, an adoption can be completed for a few thousand dollars or up to $20,000.

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Do Grandparents Have Custody Rights to Their Grandchildren?

Generically speaking, no. Grandparents don’t have automatic custody rights to their grandchildren. However, each of the states within the United States has some form of a legal statute that allows grandparents or other family members to petition the courts for visitation. These visits are not guaranteed and have to meet specific criteria, which vary from state to state.

With that being said, if a child ends up in the child welfare system, grandparents and other family members will be one of the first considered for custody of the child. Although there are several things to consider before placement, including background checks and home visits, it is preferred to have children within their family instead of a foster family with which they don’t have a relationship.

When Will a Court Allow Grandparents to Have Custody?

There are several situations in which the courts will allow grandparents to take custody of their grandchildren. These reasons include, but are not limited to, the following issues occurring with the biological parents:

  • Death
  • Incarceration
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Inability to parent
  • Lacking the desire to parent
  • Substance abuse
  • Domestic assault
  • Abandonment

Should I Hire a Lawyer If I Want to Adopt My Grandchild?

Although it is not required in all situations, it is recommended that you hire a lawyer for a grandparent adoption when financially able to do so. An adoption lawyer can help you navigate the legal web of ever-changing laws that come with family court and adoption.

In addition, they advocate on your behalf in court. It can often be challenging to speak your praises or verbally express your thoughts and concerns with self-representation. Having a trained family law expert next to you will take the stress off your shoulders and provide you with the best chance of success.


There are many circumstances in which a grandparent may want or need to take custody of their grandchildren. Although this is not a desirable path, it can become necessary if the biological parents can’t or won’t care for the children themselves.

Whether the children are placed in their grandparent’s home or another’s care, it is possible to approach the courts for permanent custody via the adoption of a grandchild. While it may seem more financially sound to navigate the system without a lawyer, and in some cases is possible, it is recommended to seek the advice of legal counsel before embarking on this family law journey.

Finding an adoption lawyer to help navigate the sometimes stressful adoption road will benefit both the grandparents and grandchildren in the long run. It will also help to close the door on an emotional life change more quickly.

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Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Western District of Washington State Federal Court.

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