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Exercising grandparents' rights can be complicated


People in their golden years are the anchors of many American families. Looking after their grandchildren and sharing precious moments with them is a joy for many grandparents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and across the country. It is one reason why many grandparents step forward if their children cannot take care of their own children.

However, some grandparents are stuck in situations which can potentially result in child custody and visitation rights disputes. For instance, in one case a grandmother assumed parenting responsibilities with her 6-month-old grandchild after her daughter went into hiding due to a drug charge. The grandmother raised and provided for the child's needs until the child was three years old.

Then, the mother began to re-appear in the grandmother's home to see the child for a couple of hours, sleep on the sofa, eat and ask for money. After a grueling three years of this routine, the mother decided to become sober and wanted her child back. By then the child could barely recognize her, and the bond between the grandmother and the little girl had grown strong during the mother's absence.

However, the court does not have the capacity to supersede the biological ties between the mother and the child. In this case, although the mother has been absent for years, unless she poses as an imminent danger to the child, she has the upper hand in reclaiming custody of the child.

The grandmother could have adopted the child to get legal custody. Grandparent's rights provide the elderly the option to assume the custody of their grandchildren if they can prove that they can provide for the best interests of the child. It can be complex, though. A lawyer can provide options to a grandparent in this situation. An experienced family law attorney will know how to advocate for the grandparent but also keep the best interests of the child in mind.

Source: The Huffington Post, "The 'F' Word in Family Law," Natalie Gregg, Dec. 3, 2013

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