Child custody hearings can be difficult events, with separating parents sparring over their access and responsibilities to children who have little power over their fates. New Hampshire, however, is seeing an increase in a different kind of child custody case.

The destructive use of drugs, especially opioids and methamphetamine, has spread across the region and caused thousands of deaths among men and women who are parents. As some fall into an addiction that can be hazardous to children, other family members are often picking up the slack.

A third of New Hampshire’s children taken from parents ruled incapable are in the care of grandparents, up 10 percent since 2012. Many grandparents who are suddenly taking care of children also require help from the government through programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Obtaining legal custody of a child can help family members claim benefits that can spell success for children in difficult situations. Grandparents have specific rights regarding their grandchildren when parents lose custody of them.

A 2017 law makes the process of seeking custody easier for grandparents. Another proposal involves folding grandparents into state services meant for foster parents and other child care institutions. However, this is still only a possibility.

Anyone with a case for child custody, especially when a parent’s substance abuse is a factor, has the right to be heard in court in an attempt to make a child’s life better. An attorney can help grandparents, foster parents or divorced parents assert their rights to take care of and make decisions for a child as they grow up.