grandparent custody of grandchild because of parents drug addictionCaring for their grandchildren on a full-time basis is not what many people envision for their golden years but a growing number of grandparents across the United States are doing just that. According to recent U.S. Census data, an estimated 5 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. A statistic that has more than doubled in the last 15 years.  The number of grandparents who are being compelled to take over the daily care of their grandchildren is growing at a rapid rate. One of the main reasons is the opioid epidemic spreading throughout our country including the State of Ohio.
Last September in East Liverpool Ohio, the local police department posted graphic photos of two adults passed out from a drug overdose in the front seats of a vehicle while a 4-year old child looked on helplessly from his car seat in the rear of the vehicle. According to the police report, the child was the son of the woman in the passenger’s seat of the vehicle who was unconscious and turning blue. The East Liverpool police posted the photos on their Facebook page with the following statement:

We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.
We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis. The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that.

parents overdosed on heroin

Photo Credit: East Liverpool, Ohio Police Department

When your adult child and spouse struggle to take proper care of their kids and endanger your grandchild’s well-being, it may be best for the child to live with a different caregiver. Should that caregiver be you?
Many grandparents think so and go through the process of legally enforcing their rights. Grandparents can legally step in for the benefit of their grandchildren in a number of ways.


When a child is removed from the parental home and placed in foster care, the parent or parents have typically gone through a legal process in which their parental rights have been suspended, either temporarily or permanently. If parents have drug addiction issues, for instance, the Court may rule that the child is to be placed in foster care until and unless the parents complete a rehab program and prove to the courts that they are committed to recovery.
While parental rights may have been revoked by the Court, grandparents’ rights to see their grandchildren generally remain. If a grandchild is in foster care, a grandparent may be able to ask the Courts for visitation or “grandparenting time” with the child, usually a set number of hours during the week. The courts may decide that supervised visitation is necessary to discourage a grandparent from trying to facilitate a way for the parent to see the child.
Another option some grandparents pursue is to step in to serve as the child’s foster parent.

Shared Custody

Depending on the situation, grandparents may want to work out a custody agreement where the grandparents and parents share legal custody of the child, meaning responsibilities and decisions for the child will be shared and may include things like medical and education decisions, religious upbringing, and more. Physical custody may also be shared where a grandchild splits time between living with grandparents and parents.

Legal Guardian

Grandparents may want to become their grandchildren’s legal guardian which gives rights and responsibilities for the full care of the child.


When a grandparent adopts a child, the act of adoption establishes the grandparent as the parent by law. Adoption is final and permanent. It’s a big step and for many grandparents but it can be a logical step in safeguarding and securing their grandchildren’s future.

We Can Help You Decide What’s Right for You

Ohio grandparent rights attorneys

Ohio Attorneys with Experience Helping Grandparents

If you are considering taking on more direct care of your grandchild or grandchildren, it’s a good idea to sit down with an experienced Ohio domestic relations attorney to understand the process that each of these options entails and which truly fit your and your grandchild’s needs. As a grandparent, you naturally want what’s best for your grandchild. And what’s best for your grandchild could be you.
Generally, when both parents are alive, they can consent to giving legal custody to the grandparents. However, if they will not consent, then grandparents must present evidence of abuse or neglect in the parent’s home, drug or alcohol abuse by the parents, the mental illness of the parents, or if one of the parents is unfit to care for the child, evidence must be shown that the other parent can’t or won’t take responsibility for raising the child.
As with all other aspects of Ohio domestic law, the Court will address all factors to make a decision that is in the child’s best interest.
To discuss your legal rights and options under Ohio law, contact us for a free and confidential consultation by calling 1-888-774-9265, chat with one of our 24-hour live chat representatives or send us a message here from our website. We make ourselves available at all times including evenings and weekends.
For more information about grandparent rights in Ohio, please visit this link: Ohio Grandparent Rights