California grandparents face child custody challenges
Family must be cared for, even if they are generations apart. That is why many grandparents in Orange County are involved in custody disputes to ensure their grandchildren’s best interests. However, increasing grandparent-headed families — or “grandfamilies” — pose challenges that can risk the custody of children living with their grandparents.
In the past 20 years, the number of grandchildren living with their grandparents has increased a great deal. In 2010, 2.7 million American grandparents had sole responsibility for the necessities of their grandchildren, who lived with them. Of those households, 21 percent lived in poverty. In California, about 300,000 grandparents now have primary responsibility for their grandchildren. Apparently, half of the state’s custodial grandparents over 65 years old live with financial difficulties.
According to a recent study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the grandparents’ fixed income reaches above the poverty line but falls short of the average income to fund basic needs. In line with this, the grandparents do not qualify fully for benefits such as food stamps, Medi-Cal and public housing support.
Many grandparents only have the kinship custody of their grandchildren, not formal legal custody. Rather, grandparents get involved with having the grandchildren with them in times of family crisis. In this situation, the grandparents are missing out on the benefits of formally having custody of their grandchildren, including full custody.
Child custodianship is a rewarding yet daunting responsibility. That is why many people argue about child custody. However, family courts base their decisions on several factors — including economic considerations — with one main goal, the best interests of the child.
Luckily, there are local resources and support groups in California that help grandparents who are battling custody issues, including financial difficulties. A family law attorney can also help to ensure that the grandparents’ rights are not neglected or violated.
Source: The Sacramento Bee, “More and more, grandparents raising their grandkids,” Anita Creamer, July 14, 2013