Heroin Impacting Child Custody - Grandparents are Petitioning for Rights

March 4, 2016  |  family law, grandparent custody

          In my family law practice, I have noticed an increase in the number of grandparents obtaining at least temporary custody of their grandchildren when the children’s parents get caught up in the use of heroin and other addictive substances. These grandparents are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of caring for their grandchildren, often infants, as well as the intricacies of the Family or Juvenile Court’s dependency, neglect or abuse (DNA) docket.

          Most surprising and frustrating to these new custodians is that they have no official standing when a case begins through the filing of a DNA petition, most often by the Cabinet for Families and Children, naming the parents and their children as parties, but not the grandparents. In most cases, the initial goal in this process is to reunite the children with their parents or parent, through the development of a care plan that includes goals for the parents to rid themselves of their addictions and obtain such basics as a safe home and meaningful employment. The grandparent custodians rarely even know what is happening, particularly if they do not hire counsel or are themselves proactive in attending hearings they learn about. Thereby requiring them to obtain information from either the social worker assigned to the case or the attorneys appointed to represent their child or grandchildren.

          On more than one occasion, this office has initiated temporary custody proceedings in either Family or Circuit Court, naming the grandparents as the Petitioners and the parents as the Respondents, particularly when the parents do not seem to be making meaningful progress toward satisfying the care plan developed with the Cabinet. (By law, the parents generally have a year to comply with the plan.) The immediate benefit to this course of action is that the grandparents have legal standing in a court of law with jurisdiction to make decisions regarding what is in the best interest of the children, taking into account the wishes of the parents and the grandparents who have emergency temporary custody through the DNA docket.

          Custody issues are often intricate and complicated, both legally and emotionally.  If you have any questions or you need to speak to an attorney, please do not wait until it is too late.  It is generally best to know your rights at the beginning so that you can determine what is best for you and your family.   Contact us today for more information. 

Author: Suzanne Cassidy, Esq.