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Grandparents Have Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2013 | Child Custody

Grandparents have custody rights in Pennsylvania:  good news for some, bad news for others.  What does this mean for grandparents or parents?  Take a look. Grandparents are considered third parties when seeking custody of their grandchildren. However, grandparents have been granted special status allowing them to pursue legal or physical custody (excluding shared physical), of their grandchildren.  First, grandparents must show that the proposed arrangement is in the child’s best interests and will not interfere with the relationship between the parent and child. Although grandparent’s visitation statutes are controversial, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled them constitutional and has found such statutes to be a means to protect the emotional well-being of children estranged from their grandparents.

Grandparents who are not in loco parentis (acting as a parent would), to their grandchild may file for primary custody when (1) the relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order, (2) the grandparent assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child, and (3) when either the child has been adjudicated dependent, the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or incapacity, or the child resided with the grandparents for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, excluding brief absences, and the child was removed by the parents. Grandparents using this section must bring their custody action within six months after removal of the child. If the above requirements are met, the court must still determine that whether it is in the child’s best interests to be in the care of their grandparents or parents. The court will apply a weighted determination in favor of the parents.

Grandparents and great-grandparents also having standing to request limited partial physical or supervised physical custody. Grandparents or great-grandparents may request partial or supervised physical custody (1) where the parent of the child is deceased, (2) where the parents of the child have been separated for a period of least six months, or have commenced and continued a proceeding to dissolve the marriage, or (3) where the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparents, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed by the parents. An action under this subsection must also be filed within six months after removal of the child from the home.

Grandparents also have standing if they stand in loco parentis to the child. The phrase in loco parentis refers to a person who puts oneself in the situation of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incidental to the parental relationship without going through the formality of a legal adoption. The status of in loco parentis embodies two ideas: the assumption of parental status and the discharge of parental duties.

Grandparents or great-grandparents will lose their custody rights to their grandchild or great-grandchild if the child is adopted, except if the adopting parent is a stepparent, grandparent, or great-grandparent.

If you are a grandparent seeking primary, partial, or supervised physical custody, of your grandchildren, or if you are a mother or father who has been sued by your children’s grandparents for the same, contact McMorrow Law today at 724-940-0100.