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Grandparents’ rights and the opioid epidemic

| Jul 10, 2017 | Family Law |

As the nation deals with a drug problem that is becoming a health epidemic, Wisconsin grandparents are oftentimes being left to pick up the pieces. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, 2015 saw more than 52,000 deaths nationwide as a result of accidental drug overdoses. Experts believe that opioid overdoses kill 80 people each day.

With numbers of users and deaths mounting, more and more children are being affected by their parents’ use of drugs, and child protective services are having difficulty keeping up with the soaring number of children in need. Currently, around 80 percent of open cases involve the parents’ use of drugs or alcohol. In many cases, family members, like grandparents, are stepping in to take care of the children, both informally or officially, as kinship foster parents.

Since drug addiction can cause a strain on familial relationships, it is important that Wisconsin grandparents understand visitation rights if they have been acting as a parent to their grandchildren while parents recover from addiction. According to The Spruce, while parents have the right to raise their children as they please, the court believes those rights do not outweigh the best interests of the child. When possible, the courts also give the child’s wishes some importance as well. Grandparents with grandchildren whose parents were never married, are divorced, or have one deceased parent are the most likely to be granted visitation. Those with grandchildren who have married parents are the least likely to be granted visiting rights. 

If a grandchild is adopted, the situation is more difficult. In some cases grandparent rights are severed, but if a grandparent was raising the child they may have some claim to visitation.