Grandparents Rights in PA – Everything You Need To Know About Child Custody & Visitation
Families take many different forms, sometimes having two parents, one parent, blended families, and many other combinations of adults and children who live together and call each other family. What’s most important is that there is a healthy and supportive living environment for all involved.
In some situations, it may be in the best interest of a child or children that their grandparents have full custody, rather than a parent or other relative.
What are the Rights of Grandparents to Child Custody in Pennsylvania?
When it comes to grandparents custody rights in Pennsylvania, they can sue for primary custody, partial custody or visitation of a child only if they have standing. Standing, in legal terms, means a person’s right to take a case before the court based upon their connection to the case. A person must have a significant connection to a case to be able to take it before the court.
Our PA family lawyers handle custody situations all the time, some with a focus on family mediation. If you are a grandparent in Pennsylvania seeking custody or visitation rights, it’s recommended that you consult with a family law attorney who can advise you on your rights and options under state law.
Child Custody Definitions
Understanding the definitions related to child custody cases in Pennsylvania is important:
The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions
Partial physical custody
Partial physical custody is the right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
The actual physical possession and control of a child.
Primary physical custody
The right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time.
Supervised physical custody
The custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.
Conditions of Seeking Physical or Legal Child Custody in PA as a Grandparent
There are two different ways under which grandparents can seek any form of physical or legal custody:
- The grandparent’s relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order 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, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.
- The grandparent can show that 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 incident to the parental relationship without going through the formality of a legal adoption.
Grandparents’ Child Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania
Grandparents can also seek partial custody or visitation of their grandchildren. This means the right to take the child away from their parents for brief periods which could be a few hours supervised by the parent to as much as a weekend or more away from the parent. Again, a grandparent must establish that they have standing to go forward with an action for partial custody or visitation.
Can grandparents seek visitation or partial custody of their grandchildren?
In terms of visitations rights, a grandparent can also seek any form of custody if they can establish by clear and convincing evidence all of the following:
- The grandparent has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child.
- The grandparent has a sustained, substantial and sincere and best interest in the welfare of the child.
- Neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.
Grandparents and great-grandparents can also seek partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in the following situations:
- where the parent of the child is deceased, a parent or grandparent of the deceased parent may file an action under this section;
- where the relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order and where the parents of the child:
- have commenced a proceeding for custody; and
- do not agree as to whether the grandparents or great-grandparents should have custody under this section; or
- when the child has, for a period of at least 12 months, resided with the grandparent or great-grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, an action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.
How to file for the custody of grandchildren in Pennsylvania?
In order to get custody (visitation rights) of a grandchild or grandchildren, a grandparent would have to file a custody petition in the county in which the child resides, if the child has resided there for the last six consecutive months. If the child has recently moved, the action may need to be filed in the county in which the child previously resided. To understand where and how to file for custody (visitation rights), it is best to speak to an experienced family law attorney who understands Pennsylvania law.
Effect of Adoption on Grandparent Visitation Rights/Partial Custody
When a child is adopted by an individual other than a stepparent, grandparent, or great-grandparent, any rights to seek physical custody or legal custody and any custody rights (visitation rights) previously granted would be automatically terminated upon adoption.
Adoption changes many aspects of custody and visitation rights among family members, especially if the adoption is to someone outside the family. Families who are navigating an adoption of a relative, and who are concerned about their custody or visitation rights should seek experienced legal counsel as early as possible.
How Colgan and Associates can help you
At Colgan and Associates, our team of trusted and respected family law attorneys have helped many individuals navigate the challenging circumstances of divorce and child custody in Pennsylvania. We are passionate about resolving conflict through mediation and working toward collaborative solutions that are in the best interest of all parties, especially children.
If you or someone you know needs advice pertaining to divorce in Pennsylvania, especially child custody and grandparents rights, we urge you to call us today. We are available to speak with you regarding your matter, provide recommended actions, and help you resolve your matter quickly and fairly. Call us for your free phone consultation at 1-800-615-0115.