Although becoming a grandparent should be about enjoying each other’s company, relaxing and reaping the benefits of a well-lived life, there are more than 4.9 million grandparents in the country who take on the role of raising their grandchildren each year due to unforeseen circumstances, including addiction issues.
There has been a surge recently, across the U.S., in the number of children entering the foster care system after years of decline. Nationally, roughly 265,000 kids entered foster care in 2015 — the highest number since 2008, according to a recent government report. Substance abuse is a factor in up to 80 percent of cases where a child is removed from a home. In light of the growing opioid epidemic, many have referred to grandparents as the new safety net when it comes to caring for their grandchildren.
When a child is removed from the parental home, the parent(s) have typically gone through a legal process in which their parental rights have been suspended, either temporarily or permanently. If parents have drug addiction issues, the court may require that the child be placed in foster care until the parents complete a rehab program. In this scenario, grandparents may be able to ask the court for visitation or “grand parenting time” with the child or to step in and serve as the child’s foster parent.
However, a concerned grandparent does not need to wait until the child is removed from the parental home in order to take action. The Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act outlines the circumstances under which a grandparent may seek custody of their grandchild. Under the Act, a grandparent can seek partial custody or visitation when a birth parent is deceased, the parents are divorced or separated for at least six months, or when the child has resided with a grandparent for at least 12 months before being taken away by a parent. A grandparent can file a petition for full physical and legal custody in cases where the grandparent has assumed the role of a parent for one year, it has already been determined that the child lacks proper parental care, or when the grandparent believes that there is parental abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or mental illness.
If you are a grandparent thinking about taking on more direct care of your grandchild, at any level and for any amount of time, contact the Law Office of Gregory P. LaMonaca to better understand the process that each of these options entails and which ones truly fits your grandchild’s needs.
To schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys or for further information, call us at the Law Office of Gregory P. LaMonaca, P.C., at (610) 892-3877