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Opioid epidemic produces apparent spike in grandparents raising children

Posted by Richard DeMichele | Nov 03, 2016 | 0 Comments

I've written in the past about how challenging it is for grandparents to secure custody, or even visitation rights, in family court. The process can prove daunting. That's because biological parents are presumed to have a constitutional right to have a say over how their children are raised; this right supersedes the rights of other blood relatives except in extraordinary circumstances. But what about when it's absolutely necessary?

Policeman and child

The challenges associated with these unique custody arrangements are currently being tested by America's horrific opioid epidemic. Prescription drug and heroin abuse are on the rise. The result is a more complicated legal environment than, for example, when one parent is a fit guardian and the other suffers from substance abuse. The Huffington Post recently reported that, “ [i]n 2005, 2.5 million children were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care. By 2015, that number had risen to 2.9 million.” Jersey Shore-based Ocean County, New Jersey alone has seen 141 overdose deaths since the start of 2016, up considerably from 2015. One scientific study, recently published in The New York Times, even raised questions as to whether opioid abuse impacts long-term parenting ability. These legal cases rarely proceed in a linear fashion. Since the grandparenting time standard remains a high legal bar to overcome, grandparent custodial situations arise from either (1) DCPP (formerly known as ‘DYFS') actions, which are always procedurally complex, (2) consent orders between parents and grandparents, (3) or a hearing to establish the grandparent as a so-called psychological parent. Make no mistake about it: These are always difficult cases for everyone involved. 

We can help if you're dealing with similar issues. Grandparents who take care of grandchildren abandoned by an addicted son or daughter are well-advised to seek legal advice. 


The standards for grandparenting time in New Jersey are challenging to meet but not insurmountable with experienced representation. If you are grappling with a child custody matter in New Jersey,  a DeMichele & DeMichele attorney will walk you through the process. Most importantly, we will make sure that you have your factual ducks in a row so that the Court can make an informed decision that accurately accesses the important role that you play in your child or grandchild's life. Always remember:  You don't have to go through this alone! 

If you or a loved one have questions regarding child custody generally, parenting time, grandparent visitation, or other family court matters in the State of New Jersey, please don't waste any time contacting the New Jersey family law attorneys at DeMichele & DeMichele. Your confidential initial consultation is only a click or call away.  Call now to speak to one of our family law attorneys at  (856) 546-1350 or click here to contact us online.

About the Author

Richard DeMichele

Richard A. DeMichele, Jr. is a seasoned litigator, devoting a substantial part of his practice to family law and personal injury matters.


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