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Number of grandparents as primary caregivers on the rise

Most of our readers, when it comes to child custody, generally think about a primary caregiver as either the mother or father. Although family law courts here in Georgia are becoming more open to the issue of fathers’ rights and making more dads the primary caregiver, it may be grandparents soon that will need the courts to change their views on custody, especially because the number of grandparents as primary caregivers continues to rise.

According to the Pew Research Center, which provides data on social and demographic trends, the sharp rise in the number of grandparents as primary caregivers has had a lot to do with the 2007 recession, though they say that the rising trend did stabilize in 2009 at the end of the recession. According to their statistics, in 2011, about one-in-ten children in the United States were living with a grandparent, with an approximate three million who were being cared for primarily by their grandparent. Although it could be argued that the child is being well cared for, the limited income of an elderly provider does raise some concerns.

These concerns are well-founded too considering the fact that children who were being cared for primarily by a grandparent were 28 percent more likely to live below the poverty line. This was most surprising considering the fact that in many households, one of the child’s parents was also living with the grandparent. But this scenario does bring up the important discussion about child custody and child support when parents other than the child’s biological ones are involved in care giving.

When determining who gets custody of the child, the courts often look at who has been the primary caregiver in the past. If it is determined that the grandparent has fulfilled this role, then they could be awarded custody of the child. But this could complicate situations of child support, leaving the family in need of legal help through the process. And as we mentioned before, this might require the courts to rethink the issues surrounding parental rights, perhaps reconsidering how they handle grandparents’ rights down the road.

Source: Pew Research Center, "At Grandmother’s House We Stay," Sep. 4, 2013

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William C. Gentry, Attorney at Law

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