The opioid epidemic spares no one and as family law and custody lawyers we are faced with this issue almost weekly if not more. At times it is our client’s suffering and our goal is not only to represent them but help them address their addiction. At other times, our client’s are grandparents and other family members seeking custody because their loved one is unable to care for their children as a result of their addiction. This crisis is affecting everyone and anyone, tearing families apart in New Jersey and leaving children living in chaos. The major dilemma that is part and parcel of the disease of addiction-denial. Denial not only prevents an addict from seeing the severity of their addiction, but also prevents family members from knowing the true extent of the addiction absent something traumatic occurring such as driving with a child under the influence, leaving a child alone, or many other scenarios wherein the child is already placed in harms way. Families are often kept at arms length while an addict is actively using opioids (or other drugs), they are rarely forthcoming as to their need for help, and families are placed in the position of either not knowing how bad it is, or being fearful of challenging the addicted parent because they are afraid that doing so will cause them to run with the child or keep the child from family. In sum, the opioid addiction places everyone in a tragic situation, which, is why the rise in opioid addiction is leading to the rise in third parties, especially grandparents, assuming custody of their grandchildren in recent months.
The rise in opioid addiction has also lead to a rise in third parties having custody of children, most typically, grandparents. Therefore, it is often now that as a custody lawyer we are seeing more and more grandparents seeking custody or otherwise wanting to know what their rights are as to custody over their grandchildren in these difficult situations.
Sometimes grandparents fear kicking their child out of the house because they will take their grandchild and yet, absent concrete proof that their child is abusing drugs or has an issue, there is very little they can do. They feel judged as it is and then feel further criticized because they are allegedly “allowing” this to happen in their house. Other times, their child is living on their own, using opioids yet raising their grandchild, and again, leaving them fearful that if they challenge their child they will lose both their child and their grandchild(ren).
In the end the law protects parent’s right to raise their children absent proof, by way of evidence, that they are unfit to care for them. While, in certain situations wherein grandparents are already essentially raising their grandchild, the path to obtaining custody or visitation rights is easier, whereas in other situations, there is simply not enough proof to show the Court that they have a basis for depriving their child of custody of their children. In sum, every scenario is fact sensitive, difficult and different, with varying standards that would apply to each case.
If you are a grandparent or family member of someone struggling with addiction to opioids and struggling to understand your rights during what is already quite a difficult time, seeking out a knowledgeable custody lawyer, is the best option as filing any application prematurely and/or absent the required proof could certainly backfire and isolate or alienate the parent and grandchild making it a dangerous situation for everyone involved.
The lawyers at the Martone Law Group, LLC have the experience and knowledge to explain to you what is permissible and an advisable course of actions as to your rights. If you are struggling with a loved ones addiction and fearful for the safety of their children, or need insight as to your legal rights to custody of a child, contact the Martone Law Group, LLC at 856-617-6700 today to schedule your consultation