Over the past few years, an increasing number of grandparents have contacted our office seeking to obtain some form of legal custody of their grandchildren. Sadly, their stories are often the same. Mom and Dad are hooked on opioids – unemployed, lacking stable housing, out of communication, unable to care for their kids. Granddad and Grandma have stepped in somewhere along the way and found themselves needing to obtain legal custody in order to register their grandchildren for school, authorize medical care, or protect them from being forced to return to the “care” of their drug-addicted parents.
This trend is not confined to our community, or even our state. Google “opioid epidemic causing children to live with grandparents” and you can spend hours reading story after story chronicling this epidemic from coast to coast. According to a PBS News Hour report on the subject, the number of children being raised by their grandparents in the United States rose from 2.5 million in 2005 to 2.9 million in 2015. And, according to the United States Census Bureau, in 2015, approximately 67,242 grandparents in Arizona served as the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. Although there are other reasons why grandparents raise their grandchildren, the opioid epidemic is a significant cause of the increase in “grandfamilies.”
In Arizona, there are a handful of options available to grandparents seeking to obtain custody of their grandchildren. Those options range from Title 8 and Title 14 guardianships to non-parent legal decision-making to termination of parental rights culminating in adoption. A Title 14 guardianship is typically the weakest form of custody, while adoption is the strongest. However, not all options are available in all situations, and the option we recommend to our clients depends on the circumstances.
While grandparents can attempt to obtain custody on their own, it is advisable to seek assistance from experienced legal counsel to guide them through what can be a very complicated process. Our office has represented many grandparents seeking custody and we enjoy helping grandparents to secure their full rights under the law.
ANDREW J. (DREW) DIENER MANAGES THE FAMILY LAW PRACTICE AT MUSGROVE DRUTZ KACK & FLACK, PC, A FULL-SERVICE LAW FIRM SERVING OUR COMMUNITY FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS.
The materials in this article are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain legal advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the individual author.