Many Baton Rouge families, like others throughout the country, don't follow a stereotypical pattern of two parents with children. Grandparents and other non-parent relatives can play a crucial and very direct role in a child's life.
According to 2010 census figures compiled by AARP and other organizations, more than 11 percent of Louisiana children live with a grandparent, who is the head of a household. More than 26,700 children living in their grandparents' homes are under the grandparent's care and do not live with parents.
A grandparent-grandchild family structure can be created out of the desire to have several generations under one roof. Unfavorable circumstances also draw children and grandparents into the same household, temporarily or permanently. Common reasons are parental substance abuse, economic hardships, the end of the parents' relationship, a prison sentence and child neglect or abuse.
Louisiana grandparents may be left in a legal grey area. Grandparents' rights are limited compared to parental rights, and each state has different family laws that define grandparents' boundaries. Grandparents separated from grandchildren may struggle with efforts to gain visitation rights and custody.
Rights for grandparents are dependent upon individual case circumstances and legal conditions outlined in state laws. Keep in mind that whenever a family law court makes a decision concerning a child, a child's best interests come above the wishes of all other parties.
A child's "best interests" cover a large area in a custody case that includes the preferences of the child, parent and grandparent. The court will assess the ability of a potential custodian to provide and support a safe and healthy environment. The positive and negative aspects of the child's relationship with a parent or grandparent are examined, among numerous other factors.
Visitations for grandparents also are conditional. Decisions may depend upon the parents' marital status or desires to permit or deny visits. Legal advice lets grandparents know where they stand.
Source: Grandparents.com, "Your Guide to Grandparent Rights" Encyclopedia of Everyday Law, Jul. 29, 2014