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Grandparents, formalize your custody agreements

If you look around at many Frisco families, you might notice that you are seeing many older parents with young children. Are couples waiting longer to start their families these days?

Not exactly. What at first glance appears to be a traditional family unit is often a set of grandparents rearing their children's kids. The national opioid crisis has hit the Texas heartland particularly hard. Families have been fractured by addiction and decimated by overdoses. All of this has led to a lost generation whose children must be taken in by family members or raised by foster families.

The burden of love

Grandparents are supposed to be the ones who indulge the kids, whisk them off to the mall for a shopping spree, and return them sticky from candy and homemade cookies. But for many children, their grandparents are their de facto parents.

They must be the disciplinarians, attend PTA meetings and school open houses in the parental role. For all practical purposes, they have ceased to be Grandma and Grandpa and have become Mom and Dad. It can be a heavy burden.

In many cases, by the time they get the kids, the children are traumatized by all they have seen and heard. They've been neglected, often abused or even molested. They may have no idea of how a family is supposed to function because they have been raised amid the chaos of addiction.

Making it legal is the first step

If you are a grandparent who is rearing your grandchildren, or another extended family member who has taken on this responsibility, the hat is off to you for stepping up to the plate. The road you're walking is not for the faint of heart. But the rewards can be more than gratifying.

However, you need to protect yourself and your grandchildren by getting legal custody of the kids. That is vital to the success of your parenting goals.

It's understandable that you may have wanted to keep the custody arrangement informal. You surely hoped that your son or daughter would get it together and kick the drugs and once again assume custody of their children. That's a worthy long-term goal, but not something that you can bank on.

If you only have an informal agreement to rear the kids and your addicted adult child shows up ready to take the kids and move out of state with a new partner, you have no legal right to refuse. If your grandson breaks an arm skateboarding and needs surgery, the doctors may not agree to operate without parental permission.

Don't remain in legal limbo

For the good of all concerned, including your addicted son or daughter, you need to seek legal custody of your grandchildren. Doing so could even provide you with an income stream from the parents, via child support. Protect the kids and yourself and learn all about your rights under Texas law.

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