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Grandparents as caretakers: Legal custody may be necessary

When children are growing up, forming relationships with grandparents might be an important aspect of their development. Although grandparents can be a source of wisdom and guidance, some family situations require a more hands-on role. In some cases, it's in the best interests of children for grandparents to provide day-to-day care.

If a parent isn't able to provide the necessary care for his or her children, grandparents may decide to step in. However, as long as parents maintain legal custody of their children, they have the right to take the children back -- even if it might not be best for the children. This is why it may be best for grandparents to explore their legal options if grandchildren are in their care.

Researchers at Oklahoma State University surveyed thousands of grandparents who are responsible for the daily care of their grandchildren. Most of the respondents said that there was no legal protection covering their arrangement. If this is the case, pursuing custodial rights could be the best move for both the children and grandparents.

Arizona law allows for non-parents to assume custody of children under certain circumstances. In an emergency situation involving the health or safety of a child, a grandparent may wish to intervene and seek primary custody, rather than having a child go into foster care.

The important thing to keep in mind is that grandparents aren't automatically designated any particular rights for custody or visitation under state law, even if they have a strong relationship with their grandchildren. Gaining a clearer understanding of grandparents' rights could prove beneficial when families are in need.

Source: The Hays Daily News, "Some legal options apply for grandparents caring for grandchildren," Judy Caprez, Oct. 21, 2013

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