Are you having to raise your own grandchildren?

One of the delights of being a grandparent is being able to nurture and develop a special relationship with your grandchildren. You look forward to opportunities to introduce them to family memories and fun activities you shared with your own children when they were young. You delight in spoiling them when they are with you.

But, for the over 300,000 grandparents in California who are rearing their grandchildren, that is not your reality. Instead, those 65 and older who have taken on this responsibility find their so-called "golden years" are occupied with things like diaper changes and PTA meetings.

Sometimes, there just is no other way. The kids' parents may have unfortunately died while the children were very young. But far too often, the problem is not death but drugs and the problems associated with it — incarceration, irresponsibility and impairment.

You want to do what is right for your grandchildren, which is why you stepped up to the plate in the first place. But simply allowing the kids to live with you is insufficient. You need to formalize your custody arrangement with the California family law courts. Unless and until you do that, you have no legal standing to make or enforce parenting decisions for the kids.

That means that their parents can waltz in and out of their lives with varying partners and sporadic sobriety — and you can't do a thing to stop it. Not only does this undermine your authority as the de facto parent, but it can also completely destabilize your grandchildren's lives.

If you find yourself in this untenable position, seek the counsel of a California family law attorney who is familiar with grandparents' rights and custody matters.

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