A GRANDMA'S STORY
Kim is an elementary school teacher. Her husband is deceased and her only daughter, Rachel has a serious opioid addiction. Kim has spent thousands of dollars trying to help Rachel overcome her addiction. In addition to paying for several inpatient rehab attempts, she has also paid for numerous attorneys retained due to Rachel’s various arrests. On top of the money Kim has spent on her daughter, she has also lost thousands of dollars due to Rachel stealing money, jewelry and just about anything else she can get her hands on in Kim’s home. On one occasion Rachel stole Kim’s credit card from her purse and charged over $15,000 before Kim could cancel the card. When Kim called the credit card company to see what could be done to reverse the charges, she was told that she would have to prosecute her daughter for theft. Kim decided to pay for the charges rather than send her own daughter to prison.
Kim has allowed Rachel to live with her even though Rachel is a competent adult capable of providing for herself. Her reason is simple. Kim is trying to protect her two grandchildren. Ashley is a wonderfully precocious 7 year old who loves to dress up like a princess. She has a huge collection of dolls and dresses and can play pretend for hours without supervision. Jake is 5 years old and just started kindergarten. He is extremely bright and loves all types of balls. Kim has enrolled Ashley and Jake in the school where she teaches and takes them to and from school every day. She attends all parent conferences, doctor appointments, activities and anything else you would normally expect a parent to do. Rachel occasionally participates in these things, but never takes responsibility for meeting her children’s needs.
Kim came to see me because Rachel brought a new boyfriend to the house last week and announced that he would be moving in with them. Kim objected for several reasons. First, she knew nothing about this man and Rachel admitted that she had only recently met him. Second, the man looked scary. He appeared as if he had not bathed or shaved in weeks and he used foul language in front of Kim and the children. The first night he was there three other men came to the house and the four of them stood out in the yard for several hours drinking and laughing loudly. Rachel has demanded that Kim allow her boyfriend to stay. She has told Kim that if the boyfriend can’t stay, then she and the children will be leaving too, and Kim will not be allowed to visit with her grandchildren if that happens. Kim is completely distraught. Through her tears she asks, “What can I do?”
Kim is not alone in her predicament. While serving as a Family Court Judge I was shocked to discover how many grandparents, and other relatives, were raising children who were not their own. Many of these wonderful people are subjected to the same type treatment Kim is experiencing. When I completed my term on the bench I decided to dedicate a portion of my practice to the assisting grandparents in obtaining legal custody of their grandchildren. Many grandparents are not aware that they might be eligible for legal custody and that once they have legal authority over the grandchildren, their child can no longer blackmail them or threaten them in order to force them to continue supporting their child’s destructive lifestyle. Kim now has legal custody of her grandchildren and they are doing well. She still loves her daughter and wants the best for her, but she no longer fears her and is no longer an enabler for her daughter’s addictive lifestyle.
The scenario depicted herein is a fictional example of the types of cases in which Judge Sandlin has been previously involved.