Claudette-Jean Girard, Attorney at Law
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Family Law Attorney

I provide experienced legal guidance in family law, divorce and special education law. I represent parents and families throughout western Massachusetts.

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More grandparents get child custody during heroin epidemic

As most Massachusetts residents know, family courts are inclined to award child custody to a biological parent of a minor child when a family is split apart by divorce. In some cases, however, the best interests of a child lie elsewhere and not with the biological parents. Many times, third parties, such as grandparents and even distant relatives, family friends or even government agencies, are better options for awarding child custody. In all of these cases a parent has been deemed unfit by a family court, usually because of drug addiction, child abuse, mental incapacity or incarceration.

Recently, Massachusetts has seen a surge in drug addiction around the state. In addition to a rise in prescription drug abuse, there are growing numbers of heroin addicts. Since 2011, more heroin addicts have been admitted to hospital emergency rooms with drug overdoses, some of them fatal.

Many courts and state agencies have had to declare that chronic drug addicts with minor children are unfit to raise them, which means they need to be placed with more responsible adults. Grandparents around the state often have to step in and provide their grandchildren with a safe haven from their own children.

Many grandparents are now being awarded legal custody of a child on the basis of drug addiction. In fact, a majority of the custody cases presented in family courts are tied to drug abuse. These grandparents have also helped these addicted parents receive the treatment and care they need so that they can return to caring for their minor children.

Source:, "During Massachusetts heroin crisis, number of grandparents raising grandchildren grows," Jill Kaufman, June 3, 2015

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