Special to American News Report
We are all familiar with the term “the best interests of the child”. We hear it most often in association with child custody arguments in divorce cases.
But for Ellicott City, Maryland family law attorney Brenda Fishbein, there are many other situations to consider.
“There’s an increasing trend of grandparents raising the children of their own children,” she said.
The biologic mother and father may not be able to care for the child. It could be for a number of serious reasons like substance abuse and incarceration, or professional reasons like the parents are required to go out of the country for their work and want their child to stay home.
“Often times, the grandparent doesn’t have legal guardianship or custody,” Fishbein said. “That’s a mistake.”
A guardian is appointed by the court to care for a child unable to care for himself. A guardianship can also be a solution for an adult who is mentally ill, mentally retarded or physically incapacitated by disability or illness.
“A guardianship can be temporary covering a time for only when the parent will be unable to care for the child,” she added.
Guardianships can be terminated pretty easily, since the reasons for granting them aren’t as stringent.
To gain custody demands a higher burden of proof.
“You have to prove a substantial change in material circumstances,” said Fishbein. “The birth parent might be a substance abuser or in jail. When it’s something that serious, the grandparent can make a compelling case for custody.”
(Here’s an interesting story on how grandparents can gain custody of their grandchildren)
For attorney Fishbein, there are some common sense reasons to make sure that you are protecting the children.
“I always tell our clients just to be careful. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
She cited an example of two parents that are traveling abroad and left their children with their grandparents, other family members or friends.
“Making sure that those who are caring for your children have power of attorney in case they need medical attention or some other emergency arises is just smart parenting.”
The mobility of today’s society poses these types of challenges.
“I had a client who moved to Florida because of his work and his child went with him. Turns out the child hated it, his grades were slipping and he started to get into trouble,” Fishbein remembered. “He brought the child back to live with grandparents who became the guardians of the young boy.”
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