In San Diego and throughout the State of California, grandparents are reportedly struggling to make ends meet. A recent study conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research and the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, reveals that grandparents with custody of their grandchildren are among the state’s most vulnerable caregivers. The study blames the high cost of living in California in conjunction with the limited state aid available for these families. If you are confronting a child custody issue and need help, it is important to contact an experienced family law attorney who is familiar with the local laws and court rules.
The results of this study are fairly disturbing when you consider the compiled statistics: over 300,000 grandparents in California have primary responsibility for their grandchildren. Out of this number, nearly 65,000 are over 65 years of age. And more than 20,000 care for their grandchildren without any extended family assistance within the home.
There are a whole host of reasons that children wind up in the care of their grandparents. The parents may no longer be alive or are in prison, or possibly unable to care for their children due to substance abuse issues, violent tendencies, or cannot take care of the child for some other reason. Under California law, a grandparent may become the guardian of a child via the local court system. Under principles of guardianship, a court may order someone other than the child’s parent to (1) have custody of the child; (2) oversee and manage the child’s property (also known as the “estate”); or (3) do both.
This form of custody is entirely separate from a custody award rendered through the juvenile dependency court. The case of guardianship is typically brought by the person seeking to be appointed guardian or by another family member who is asking the court to appoint a guardian. Under a guardianship arrangement in California, parents still have parental rights and can request reasonable contact with the child. The court has the authority to terminate a guardianship arrangement if the parents show that they are now able to care for the child. The court may also supervise the conduct of guardians to ensure proper care of the children.
A guardian established through the court has full legal and physical custody of the child and is expected to make all of the decisions that a parent would make concerning the physical care of the child. But as we can see from the above-mentioned article, it comes at a hefty price, and one that may not be affordable. The study recommends the following potential remedies: (1) raising the eligibility criteria for certain public programs to 200 percent of the federal poverty level; (2) extending state foster-care benefits to kinship caregivers; and (3) limiting the frequency of bureaucratic and cumbersome benefit renewals.
Many grandparents are not only getting by with a limited income, they are also older and may find it difficult to find alternative means of support. Child custody issues are complicated no matter who is involved, be it a parent, grandparent or some other caregiver. An attorney with extensive experience handling such matters can help the parties understand their rights.
Parents with questions about child custody matters are encouraged to contact Doppelt & Forney. Mr. Doppelt is a knowledgeable family law attorney with more than 20 years of experience representing parents in Southern California. Doppelt & Forney serves clients in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a dedicated family lawyer, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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