Throughout the U.S., it is becoming more common for grandparents to be the caretakers for their grandchildren. These grandparent-led households, known as “grandfamilies,” include 5.4 million children under the age of 18, according to U.S. Census data. In Illinois alone, 211,900 children live with a grandparent.
However, in many of these instances, grandparents do not have legal custody of their grandchildren. Instead, the grandparents may be taking care of their grandchildren because the children’s parents have substance abuse, neglect, divorce, or financial problems. Unfortunately, by not having legal custody, these grandparents may be unable to make important decisions for their grandchildren, including those involving healthcare and education. Also, these grandparents may have to give their grandchildren back to unfit parents if the parents so request.
For these reasons, it is important these households become aware of grandparents’ rights. In some instances, grandparents may be able to obtain visitation rights or full custody of grandchildren. When a child’s parents get divorced, for example, grandparents who are able to show a strong bond to the child may be able to receive visitation rights. Additionally, if the child’s parents are unfit to care for him or her, then grandparents may be able to obtain full custody of the child.
Exercising grandparent rights can be difficult. This process often involves showing a strong relationship between the child and the grandparents, and that the grandparents are able to provide the child with a stable home. Financial status, the cleanliness of a home, and the time grandparents are able to devote to a child may come into play. An Illinois family law attorney can help develop a strong legal argument that seeks to show the grandparents’ ability to adequately care for their grandchild.
These cases, in the end, center on the best interests of the child. But when a dispute arises as to which household supports those interests, an attorney can be helpful. Such family legal issues should always be thoroughly thought through in order to prevent an unwanted resolution.
Source: WRAL, “Exchange: Grandparents take on changing role,” Stephen Di Benedetto, Nov. 4, 2013