Child custody or guardianship: Grandparents raising grandchildren

Photo of attorney Melinda L. Singer

More and more grandparents in New Jersey and elsewhere take on the raising of their grandchildren. In many cases, grandparents take over when parents are no longer able to care for the children. This is often the result of substance or alcohol abuse or other matters. Because parents retain child custody, the only way grandparents have to prevent them from taking the children back is to petition the court for guardianship.

Obtaining guardianship does not always give the grandparents sole rights to the children. The court could allow parents parenting time time, and order the parents to pay child support to the grandparents. However, in many cases that involve incarcerated or substance-addicted parents, there is no money available to pay support.

The primary benefit of obtaining guardianship is the right it gives the grandparents to make decisions regarding their grandchildren. This typically includes the right to make education-related decisions and those that involve medical care and therapy. Grandparents’ guardianship is sometimes encouraged to ease the foster care system that is overburdened.

Grandparents who are concerned about the welfare of their grandchildren can consult an experienced New Jersey family law attorney regarding their legal options. After assessing the circumstances of the children and their parents, a lawyer can explain the available options and how the child custody rights of the parents may be affected. The attorney can advocate for the grandparents in their effort to obtain guardianship. Depending on state laws (there is a Kinship Care subsidy program in New Jersey), the attorney might even arrange a financial grant to help the grandparents, similar to that paid to foster parents.

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