What's new in grandparent custody? We all remember the day in late November when the horrifying news flashed across the bottom of television screens across the country. Paul Walker, best known for his role in the Fast and the Furious movies, had died in a fiery car crash. Walker was in the passenger seat of a Porsche driven by Walker's friend and financial adviser, Roger Rodas. The vehicle hit a light pole and two trees before bursting into flames. Walker left behind a 15-year-old daughter, Meadow Walker.
Following Walker's tragic passing, his mother, Cheryl Walker petitioned for custody of Meadow, stating claims that Rebecca Soteros, Meadow's mother, was an alcoholic. Shortly after filing, Cheryl dismissed the petition due to Meadow's wishes to live with her mother. However, that was not the end of the custody proceedings. Officials found validity in Cheryl's claims and wanted to complete a full investigation before officially placing Meadow in the care of her mother. Last week, after over a month of investigation, the court decided that Meadow Walker would live with her mother and a nanny.
Paul Walker's mother would likely have had standing in a custody battle (in PA) had she decided to not dismiss the petition.
Under Pennsylvania law, grandparents can petition for physical and legal custody of their grandchild. As with other custody cases in Pennsylvania, the court decision will be based on the standard of what is in the best interests of the child.
Specifically under PA statute, to petition for physical and legal custody of their grandchild, a grandparent must have a relationship with the child that began either "with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order." The grandparent must be one "who assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and when one of the following conditions is met:
· The child has been determined to be a dependent child;
· The child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
· The child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent . . . and is removed from the home by the parents." 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5324(3).
If you have questions about grandparents' rights in Pennsylvania, contact the experienced family law attorneys at McMorrow Law at 724-940-0100 today.