Under New Law, Grandparents To Get Priority In Custody Cases Involving Substance Abuse

May 25, 2017

Family court judges will soon be required to give priority to grandparents in guardianship cases where parents are dealing with substance abuse issues.

Gov. Chris Sununu signed a bill into law last week that’s meant to address the rise in grandparents taking on parental duties in the midst of the state’s heroin and opioid crisis.

The new law takes effect next year, and a public signing ceremony is expected soon.

Nashua Republican Mariellen MacKay was the bill’s prime sponsor. She estimates there are now 10,000 grandparents caring for their grandchildren in the state.

“The issue is they can care for their grandchild and love their grandchild, but in some instances they couldn’t make the decisions or the determinations or even keep their grandchild within the family unit,” MacKay told NHPR's Morning Edition. 

MacKay says the law is the first of its kind in the nation.

The law only deals with cases where substance abuse is involved, but backers say they hope future legislation could expand beyond that.