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Grandparents' rights: a privilege and added responsibility

Many grandparents look forward to being a big part of their grandchildren's lives. Recently though, a national trend has been developing in which grandparents become de facto parents of their own grandchildren. Many courts are granting custody for grandparents to raise their grandchildren directly.

Even though they're biologically capable of bearing children, many young people are simply ill-equipped for being good parents at an early age. Some children are too young, too irresponsible, too ill, too addicted to drugs or alcohol or too financially incapable of raising their own children. Although not always the case, these are common reasons for grandparents assuming parental roles to their grandchildren.

One grandmother, for example, said she learned in a late-night phone call that her daughter, then in college, was almost five months pregnant. She soon realized that she would be the one raising the child. As a result, she began writing a guidebook for grandparents in similar situations and founded a support group.

According to census data, she said, close to three million grandparents are now raising more than five million grandchildren in the United States. Many of these grandchildren are psychologically, emotionally and physically damaged by the failure of their parents and are now being raised by grandparents on fixed incomes and with little other support.

People who might otherwise enjoy their retirement years pursuing activities they long dreamed about are instead spending their remaining years raising children again. And they do so willingly to benefit the children who desperately need parenting. Fortunately, most state laws provide that grandparents can be granted custody rights when parents die, disappear or are deemed unfit to maintain custody of their children for some reason.

Legal professionals are available to assist Philadelphians who are concerned about their own grandparents' rights. These professionals are skilled in family law and may be able explain how grandparents can exercise their rights in consideration of the best interest of the child.

Source: Huffington Post, "From: Grand Central," Deborah Doucette, March 21, 2013

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