Kathleen J. Smith, Attorney at Law

Grandparenting when your child suffers with addiction

One of the most heartbreaking things you may have had to deal with in your life is seeing your child struggle with addiction. Whether it is alcohol or drugs, chemical dependency can change a person, and that is a difficult thing for a parent to watch.

While you may be able to console yourself with the knowledge that your child might not overcome their addiction or has made the choice to refuse help, you cannot find that same consolation for your grandchildren.

If your child's addiction has left you with the responsibility of providing basic care for your grandchildren, you are not alone. In fact, because of the increasing opioid epidemic, more grandparents are raising their grandchildren than ever before. 

How does addiction affect parental rights?

If the courts are aware of your child's addiction, they may have already rescinded custody and your child's right to visit the children without supervision. In fact, a court order may be the reason why your grandchildren are living with you now. California courts typically consider several factors when making the difficult decision to deny custody or visitation to a parent, including:

  • The type of substance to which the parent is addicted
  • How often the parent engages in the use of mind-altering drugs
  • How long the parent has had a substance abuse problem

As long as your child seeks treatment for the addiction, the court may allow him or her to continue regular, supervised visits with your grandchildren. Family courts typically prefer to keep a child and parent together as often as possible. However, if your child refuses treatment or reverts to drinking or using drugs, the court may step in and terminate parental rights. The primary concern of the court is with the best interests of the children.

Can you seek guardianship over your grandchildren? 

Your may have a delicate position in this situation. If you agreed to care for the children on your own, you may not have the legal right to make decisions in place of the parents.

For example, if your grandchild becomes ill or injured, you may not be able to authorize medical treatment or receive information about the child's condition without a court order. Obtaining such an emergency order may consume precious time.

If you want the legal right to make such decisions on behalf of your grandchildren, you may wish to seek a guardianship. Your guardianship over the children may provide a new level of protection and security that their parents are not able to give them at this time. Guardianship can be temporary or permanent, and your attorney can help you discern which will work best for your circumstances.

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