In Colorado and across the nation, many grandparents have taken on the role of primary caregiver for their grandchildren. This scenario can come about in a number of ways, and can be a temporary measure or an arrangement that lasts for the duration of a childhood. Grandparents who are tasked with raising their grandkids should be wary of doing so without a clear child custody agreement in place, as illustrated by one high profile example.
The case centers on a grandmother who has been caring for her two young grandsons for the past three years. The children were placed in her care after the mother, who is the older woman's adopted daughter, was unable to care for the boys due to addiction issues. The father of the children is alleged to have abused them, although those claims have never been substantiated.
Things were going along smoothly until the father recently asked the court to grant him custody of the boys. Working under the presumption that a fit parent has the right to have custody of their child, the father was successful in gaining child custody rights. The grandmother, however, feels that the boys would be in danger if placed within his care, and took steps to shield her grandsons from that outcome.
Because the mother of the boys is a registered member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, the grandmother was able to approach a tribal court and ask for emergency custody. Her request was granted, and she took the children nearly 180 miles from home to a reservation in a nearby state. That removes her and the children from the jurisdiction of the state authorities.
As it stands, the grandmother has a tribal court order for emergency custody, while the father has an emergency order issued by the state. The grandmother is appealing the state's order, and the father has the right to appeal the tribal court's order. Unless the matter of jurisdiction can be resolved, the case could ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has been asked to rule on such cases in the past. For grandparents in Colorado and elsewhere, the case serves as a warning against raising grandchildren without a clear child custody order in place.
Source: nativetimes.com, "Grandmother in custody case, boys hide on Indian reservation", Amy Beth Hanson, Oct. 15, 2015