Grandparents as Guardians

When the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) gets involved in a family situation, the agency’s wheels begin turning quickly. When DCF believes that the child is in danger by staying in the home, they will remove them. Where that child goes next depends on a lot of factors. The court will often appoint a guardian to make decisions for the child. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it’s possible that the grandparents could become the child’s legal guardian.

When DCF Gets Involved

Just about anyone who feels that a child’s safety, welfare, or health is in danger can call DCF in Connecticut. In fact, some professionals are required by law to notify DCF if there are suspected cases of abuse or neglect.

Once notified, DCF has an obligation to investigate the situation promptly. You will likely have a DCF investigator knock on your front door for an unannounced home visit. If the investigator has a reasonable suspicion that your child is not safe, they may also notify the police, who will respond with their own investigation.

Removing a Child from the Home

If DCF does an initial investigation and determines that there is a risk of abuse or neglect, they will attempt to create a plan to address the situation using their protocol and the services they have at their disposal. In many cases, DCF will remove the child from the home until they feel that it is once again a safe environment.

As relatives, grandparents have the legal right to notification if DCF decides to remove a child from the home. In general, DCF has an obligation to try to place the child with the other parent (if the parents are not living together) or with a relative of either parent. In many cases, it is the grandparents who are in the best position to care for and provide a home for the child. If they choose, the grandparents can request such a placement.

What Happens at a DCF Hearing?

Once a child has been removed from the home, there will be a hearing in front of a judge to give the parents a chance to argue their case. If they believe that the removal wasn’t appropriate, this is an opportunity to present such evidence. Unfortunately, many judges will side with DCF unless there has been a gross misunderstanding of facts. If you wish for your child to reside with their grandparents while your DCF case is pending, it would be a good idea to have them attend this hearing and indicate their willingness to become involved.

Filing a Petition for Guardianship

At the initial hearing, the court can grant temporary custody to a grandparent or possibly visitation rights. When there is an ongoing DCF investigation with removal from the home, the agency will move for guardianship. It would be better if you were proactive about guardianship instead of allowing a stranger to take on this role.

The child’s grandparents will need to file a petition for guardianship. This is generally the best way for grandparents to establish their custodial rights. Once guardianship is established, grandparents will have the right to make decisions for the children about healthcare and school. It can also prevent DCF from putting the children up for adoption or severing a parent’s parental rights prematurely.

The Benefits of Grandparent Guardianship

The main benefit of having a child’s grandparents appointed as your child’s legal guardian is the peace of mind you will have, knowing your children will be well cared for by a family member. But there are a few other benefits as well.

Even though a legal guardian has been appointed, parental rights haven’t been severed. Visitation arrangements, even supervised ones, can be much easier to handle when they are kept in the family. Also, there may be a lessened threat of adoption outside the family when your children maintain a close bond with a relative.

Contact an Experienced Connecticut DCF Defense Attorney

If a grandparent is available to act as your children’s guardian, this is always the best approach when DCF gets involved in your life. You never know what the future holds. While the goal might be fast reunification, DCF can ask the court at any point to sever your parental rights and move toward adoption. If this were to happen, both your and the grandparent’s rights would be lost.

Whenever DCF makes an appearance in your life, there is no time to spare. In Connecticut, relatives generally have just 90 days to intervene and seek custody of a child who has been removed from the home.

You need qualified representation and must take immediate action to safeguard your rights. At The Christie Law Firm, we understand how the Connecticut DCF works and will proactively pursue the best outcome for you and your children. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.

Types of Guardianships

When an adult is unable to care for themselves or a child’s parents are unable to care for the child, guardianship may be necessary to provide that guidance. But there are several different types of guardianship that might be used. Here is what you need know, and some particular information about guardianships as they apply to DCF cases.

What Is Legal Guardianship?

Guardianship refers to another party being granted the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of a certain person, such as a child or parent. The “guardian” is the person the court appoints to make decisions on behalf of someone else. The “protected person” is the person over whom the guardianship has been granted by the courts.

The Purpose of Guardianship

Adults have the legal right to make their own decisions, and parents normally have the legal right to make decisions for their children. When this isn’t possible for various reasons, another party may need to step in to make these choices.

A guardianship may be needed over an adult if that person becomes incapacitated, meaning they are no longer able to care for themselves due to disease, mental illness, or mental incapacity. A guardianship may be needed over a child if the responsible parent isn’t available to make choices due to death, incapacity, or some other issue.

The Different Types of Guardianships

If you believe a person needs someone else to oversee their care, you and your attorney will need to decide which type of guardianship is appropriate. In Connecticut, there are several different types of guardianships possible:

Parents as Guardians

There is a legal presumption that both parents are to act as guardians of a minor child unless the courts state otherwise.

Temporary Guardians

A temporary guardian can be appointed by the court for no longer than a period of one year if a parent is unable to care for a child for any reason.

Permanent Guardians

If the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child, it can appoint a permanent guardian, which cannot be revoked,

Standby Guardians

A parent or guardian can designate a standby guardian of a minor to act in the event that the parent or primary guardian is unable to perform due to any specified contingencies.


If a minor doesn’t have a parent or guardian, an interested party, such as a relative, can ask the court to appoint co-guardians.

Guardian of the Estate

A guardian of the estate of a minor will control the property and assets of a minor. This is different than guardianship of a person.

How Guardianships Are Used in Connecticut DCF Cases

If you are the subject of an investigation by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), there’s a chance that guardianship might become part of the equation. Once DCF receives notice of reported abuse or neglect, they are obligated to begin an investigation quickly.

A DCF agent will likely come to your home, request to interview your child, and even contact other interested parties such as teachers or your child’s other parent. If DCF feels that your child is in immediate danger, they can remove them from the home temporarily. DCF also has the right to petition the court for guardianship, meaning you will no longer be able to make decisions for your child.

In Connecticut DCF cases, there are three types of guardianships:

  • Straight transfer of guardianship— Guardianship is transferred to a designated party without any additional follow-up by DCF or the courts after the ruling.
  • Subsidized guardianship— The named guardian is a licensed foster care provider who receives a state subsidy to help with the child’s care.
  • Permanent guardianship— The guardian is awarded this status permanently, which generally coincides with the termination of parental rights.

As you can see, no guardianship is ideal. But you want to avoid permanent guardianship for your child. As soon as you know that DCF will be involved in your life, it’s in your best interests to speak with a knowledgeable attorney.

Speak With an Experienced Connecticut DCF and Guardianship Attorney

If you live in Connecticut and the court has ordered guardianship for your child because of a DCF investigation, it’s important that you speak with a qualified DCF lawyer as soon as possible. While this type of guardianship is meant to be temporary, DCF has the right to ask the court to terminate your parental rights if they feel there is justification.

Even though a guardian has been assigned and your child isn’t living in your home, you still retain parental rights. At this point, you should be working diligently towards reunification, which is something The Christie Law Firm can help facilitate. We specialize in handling these types of DCF cases and encourage you to reach out to us to find out how we can help. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.