A new study published yesterday by the Pew Research Center spotlights a family law trend that, until now, had been mainly anecdotal: tough economic times leading to a sharp increase in children being raised by their grandparents.
According to the report, 10% of all American children live with at least one grandparent. The report notes that this figure had been rising slowly for a number of years before spiking in 2007-2008. Moreover, 41% of those children are being raised primarily by a grandparent, and while “this figure – 2.9 million children – rose slowly throughout the decade… it, too, spiked from 2007 to 2008. In that single year, there was a 6% increase,” the report says. The report is based on an analysis of census data carried out by the Center, a non-partisan research institute headquartered in Washington DC.
As the Washington Post notes in an analysis of the report, the economy “is not entirely to blame” for this situation. In some cases grandparents are stepping in where parents are experiencing emotional or medical troubles to ensure that the children are not placed in foster care. Military deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan also play a significant role in grandparent-as-parent scenarios.
Whatever the reason – and every family, of course, is different – situations where the grandparents take over child-rearing duties can lead to awkward, and sometimes difficult, legal situations. Many families set up arrangements like these informally. While that works for many people, it also has the potential to lead to child custody disputes if the grandparents find themselves reluctant to turn a child back over to his or her parents at some point in the future. Even situations that are completely amicable can become legally fraught if guardianship arrangements are not formalized. A situation might develop, for example, in which a child was denied the opportunity to play sports or travel because a parent is absent but a grandparent is not legally empowered to sign official documents.
For parents and grandparents here in Orange County one of the best ways to ensure that such situations do not develop is to consult with a Costa Mesa, Santa Ana or other Orange County family law attorney as soon as unorthodox California child custody arrangements look as though they might be a possibility. A Costa Mesa child services lawyer can help guide you through the complexities of the legal system, ensuring that the rights of everyone involved remain protected, while always keeping the best interests of the children at the forefront of any discussion.
Pew Research Center: Since the start of the Great Recession, More Children Raised by Grandparents
Washington Post: Grandparents increasingly fill need as caregivers