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Grandparents Rights Enforced Under New State Laws

Posted in Family Law on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Grandparents often play a crucial in the care and development of their grandchildren, but their rights in terms of being involved in the lives of these children have been historically underrepresented in the courts. In terms of family law, public awareness of the roles held by grandparents in family court cases has increased in recent years. On January 1, 2016, new laws have gone into effect that help to protect and support those rights. For grandparents throughout the state, this could open doors for legal visitation and custody awards and ensure that they are notified when problems in their own children’s families threaten the health or safety of their grandchildren.

Grandparents Increasing Roles As Caregivers

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), there are currently close to six million children living in homes with grandparents. In approximately half of these homes,the grandparents bear the main responsibility of providing for the grandchildren. While in some cases, grandparents provide day care and attend school activities and functions for young family members while their adult children work, the parents of these children are not present in approximately one million of these homes. Reasons why grandparents step in to take a parent’s place vary. In some cases, it is because one or both of the child’s parents are on active duty military service or are out of state seeking work. Other times, a grandparent might need to step into cases of divorce or single parent homes when the custodial parent of the child is dealing with one of the following issues:

  • The parent is hospitalized due to health conditions or suffers a serious illness;
  • The parent is incarcerated;
  • The parent suffers serious mental health issues; or
  • The parent has alcohol or drug problems that render them incapable of supporting and caring for the child.

The AARP reports that grandparents who assume the role of providing for their grandchildren often feel isolated, lacking social support and access to resources and benefits that are generally made available to parents. In addition to this lack of resources, laws and policies often work against them, creating endless red tape and making it more difficult for them to fulfill their roles as their grandchild’s custodians and primary caregivers.

New Laws Supporting Grandparents Rights

In recognition of the increasing role that grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren, new laws were enacted at the beginning of the year to protect grandparents’ rights and support them in caring for their grandchildren. These include the following:

  • DCFS-Custody-Notice-Relatives: New laws dictating changes to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services policies now require the DCFS to make reasonable efforts to locate grandparents or other adult relatives of children in their custody before placing these children in foster care. For grandparents, this means that if their son or daughter is struggling and faces having their child removed from the home, they now have the right to step in and take custody themselves, while being afforded all the rights of a primary caregiver; and
  • Adoption Registry-Grandparents: This law amends the prior laws and now gives birth grandparents rights to the adoption registry. Under the Illinois Adoption Act, grandparents now have a right to see records and information in regard to their grandchildren whose parents’ rights have been terminated or whose parents willingly gave them up for adoption.

These new laws mean increased acknowledgement and respect within the legal community of the special bond that exists between a grandparent and grandchild. It also means that the courts now recognize that grandparents are a viable choice for assuming legal responsibility of their grandchildren when the child’s parents are unwilling or unable to do so.

Call Our Experienced Joliet Family Law Attorneys Today

If you are a grandparent seeking visitation or custody of a grandchild, contact Sabuco, Beck, Hansen, Massino & Pollack, P.C. today. Our team of experienced family law attorneys can advise you on how best to proceed in your particular case while providing the legal counsel you need and the caring, comprehensive client service you deserve. Serving Will County and the surrounding areas, call or contact us online today for a confidential consultation.

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