Grandparents Rights in PA – Everything You Need To Know About Child Custody & Visitation

Grandparents rights in PS, child custody, family law

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.

Related: The 16 Child Custody Factors Courts Consider in Pennsylvania

Child Custody Definitions

Understanding the definitions related to child custody cases in Pennsylvania is important:

Legal custody

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.

Physical custody

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

The Grandparent Visitation Act in PA has persisted constitutional challenges and a grandparent can file for visitation (partial custody) when:

  1. one of the parents of the child is deceased;
  2. that the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months;
  3. that the child has spent 12 consecutive months with the grandparent.

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.

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  1. Wanda Garner says:

    I would like to get visitation rights for my granddaughter who my son is paying child support and have given the mother the right to leave the state to live with her mother in Georgia but all custody proceedings where handled here in PA. All I want is my rights to be able to see my granddaughter without the mother being upset or disappointed with my son to take it out on me when the time I want to spend with my granddaughter for her to say I she's not going to be able to meet with you because of whatever reason she decides. Can you help me or tell me how to go about doing this?

  2. Lilith Raynes says:

    My husband and I are 20, not to young but apparently young enough for people to tell us we shouldn't be having a child or be married. We've been together for 6+ years..I've got a problem with my mil. His mother, she's never been in his life except last year when we took a break and he stayed with her for awhile. (We had a miscarriage was hard on both sides I don't blame him) I met her the beginning of last year, she was great acting likes she loved me invited me everywhere didn't seem to want to do anything without me, untill me and my hubby took our break? (Mind you we all worked together in the same place) then I started hearing from other people back in November that she has been running and spreading rumors for the last 7 months,(she was also in jail, and has been drinking 7-9 beers a day even at work and is doing drugs even did it right in front of hubby..) me and hubby got back together in December and she had walked up to me during work and threatened to kill me..since then it's gotten worse the rumors name calling she even told hubby that she wishes she aborted him…I found out 2 months ago when we first found out I was pregnant that she has been telling everyone my child is hers and she's going to get grandparent rights to my child I live in Pennsylvania and I've told that's she doesn't have that right here no matter what..but I'm still beyond scared I'm already in my 4th month and I barely want to go out because she knows where we live.. (I also quit the job because the job didn't do anything said they couldn't afford to lose anyone over "drama") I dont want this women near my child or have any rights whatsoever she has also said that she would be moving to Maine with he so called boyfriend. She has 3 kids including my husband and has never had custody or rights to them because shes always in jail or drinking/doing drugs. What can I do to keep her away from me and my family

  3. Anonymous says:

    Cat read the beginning letters al blured

  4. Jocelyn Breindel says:

    My daughter in law won’t let I see our grandchildren she is holding them over are heads,because she’s mad at me now we can’t see them

  5. Emily Evans says:

    I resided with my fiancé and my child under my parents roof for 12 months. they are now seeking visitation rights after we cut them off because they are unhealthy for my child. what can happen during the hearing since the mediation did not got well? We have had peace in our l ives and my child has been a happier child since we excluded them from out lives.

  6. Jilann Anderson says:

    My daughter has partial custody of my grandson I do not get to see my biological grandson when he is with his maternal father I want know if I can get any type of custody of my grandson for at least a day so he knows who I am

  7. Kelly L Guta says:

    I am looking for my 3 grandchildren that where adopted family. Can anyone help me. The family that adopted the children gave a $300,000 donation to Washington County CYS and then adopted my three grandchildren. Please help me find them.

  8. Betty says:

    I need to know how do I get partial custody or visitation rights to my four-month-old grandson my son had a child with a young lady who seems to be trying to give the baby away

  9. Anna says:

    Seeking legal advice. My son is incarcerated for domestic abuse on his ex-girlfriend/child and left my then 2 year old grandson from another woman with me and my husband. Grandson was born with drugs in system and was placed temporary with my son until mother got herself together; still waiting. Grandson is now 4 and it will be 2 years in August that we've had him. What are my options as a grandparent? Is it best to file legal or physical custody? I'm not sure how long my son will be incarcerated for; could be a year or two. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

  10. Deborah Easley says:

    Hello I would like to know what my rights are as a grandparent for visitations. My daughter is angry with me for whatever reason and holding that over my head. Is there and age limit he is 15 now and up until a year ago things have changed. He has been threatened not to speak to me and me also. I do have original custody since he was 4 months since she was incarcerated at the time but living under the same roof was not good for the child so at the age of 6 they moved out of my home. I was going thru health issues so decided it was best with his mom. Never was an issue before but she has anxiety issues and mood swings and verbally abusive. All I want is to be able to see him and take him out like I used to. It's just a power game for her and not letting him make a choice on his own. Please advise what my rights are.

  11. Dalia Castro says:

    I want to see my grandchild who reside in deflate County and are being cared for by father n common law wife. It has been more than 6 months that they had the boys and a little over six that theymoved away to deadliest County. I would not have known of the move had I not passed my the home the lived in here in Philadelphia. Father says I can visit any time but doesn't answer my calls. The step mother gets her full of saying they don't want to see me. I feel they are being brain washed and turned against me. The children and I had always been close. What can I do, how can I see them legally. I'm Afraid they will block media access and I won't be able to see them. I have the address but don't want to just pop up.

  12. Wanda Merkel says:

    A friend of mine is trying to get custody of their grandchild. The child's mother has been arrested for drug possession and child endangerment, plus other numerous counts. The father of the child is an addict and the rest of the family (immediate and extended) are very toxic. They're physically abusive and emotionally abusive. My friend wants to know what rights they have, if any?

  13. G.T. says:

    If my wife dies, and her parents (her father is an alcoholic and abused her growing up, he mom never did anything to stop him either) never met our child, would they still have grounds to petition for visitation rights? I don't want my child around that type of behavior. What would I be able to do?

  14. Kathy Tittle says:

    I live in Arizona and my son moved to Pennsylvania where his wife's family resides. My DIL is a lying manipulative very sick individual who has constantly been rude and deceptive to us and is always sure to let us know that we are not welcome to come visit our grandchildren. They are 3yrs and 2 months old. I am heartbroken that my son allows her to call ALL of the shots. We used to be close but I now noticed that he has taken on some of her traits (lying, making excuses, etc.)
    Our plan is to just show up and demand to see them! If my son wants to continue to exclude us from their lives then he can tell me to my face and I will accept that and grieve for him as if he is dead!
    If they refuse to let us see them, what legal recourse do we have?

  15. Janet Tolliver says:

    Hi, I have a 4 year granddaughter that for four years was always n my life n I did everything for her cuz her father my only son was killed September 13, 2016, he never had a chance to see his twin..I was n the delivery room first one to hold her n cut the cord. 13 days later her maternal grandmother passed away so we had her n my son buried together then 7 months later my son’s father committed suicide couldn’t deal with his son death. So I’m the only grandparent the do the world for my granddaughter but her mother had another baby n give me a hard time getting my granddaughter n she luvs me soo much n she all I have left from my son..I just so tired of begging her to see my granddaughter.. I just want spend time with my granddaughter but she always have excuses n sooo disrespectful

  16. Gayle Lomax Acevedo says:

    My daughter has been verbally abusing me for years I gave her the world and spoiled her she started disrespecting me she now is pregnant the baby due in March she has been mad at me for really nothing she said she don’t want me at the hospital when she is giving birth and she is using the unborn child against me because she knows I’m soo excited and happy I will be a first time Grandmother I am so devastated her and her boyfriend has arguements a lot so I’m trying to check on her to make sure she is ok I. I bought the Baby A lot of clothing and things he needed please I need to speak to an Attorney it’s more than this that has happened

  17. Brenda Clayton says:

    i am in the same situation as Wanda Garner. My granddaughter is my youngest son's child. I need to see her for her sake and mine, She has developmental delays and I have been helpimg her through this. My case is very complicated. Need help. Mom may have psych issues.

  18. Christina Bozzo says:

    I am currently residing in PA. I want to move to TX with my children to improve our quality of life. In addition, my father and my stepmother live down there. My biological mother is listed as an intervenor on my custody case. I filed for a relocation and did all the proper paperwork. We went to court, none of us had a lawyer, and the children's father agreed to the relocation but my biological mother did not and slandered me in court. It was blatant character defamation. My relocation was denied, I was heartbroken. My question is if I am able to have my stepmother in TX adopt me, will that affect or terminate the partial physical custody that my biological mother has for my daughter? She gets her Wed. afternoon until Thurs. evening. She used to also get my son but she was verbally abusive to him and he refuses to see her.

  19. Ida Ashford says:

    I need to start a custodial petition for my grandson. He is 13 years old and is being verbally and physically abuse by the mother, her brother and her boyfriend. Please advise

  20. Amy E Bassler says:

    How do I as a grandparent get visitation for my grandaughter. Her father and stepmom wont let me see her

  21. Ann Gambino says:

    I need advise I live in Delaware and have 2 beautiful granddaughters I did Eve with . My daughter lost them to foster parents in July 2021 as I was in Florida getting married to a wonderful man , I got a call that was breaking up with bad reception from some one from Centre County Pennsylvania Children services needing me to come get my grands. I couldn’t hear much but since I did not understand what was going on in deep shock when I finally got the answers , my granddaughters were given to foster care . I was devistated by all means . My daughter relapsed and also was apparently drinking and driving with my youngest granddaughter Riley Ann in car . I was talking to the girls google duo when my daughter went for 1 x a month monitored visits. I was devistated to find out she took me off the list for getting my granddaughters out of spite and anger when I was in Florida in July 2021 . She also took my son off . It’s now time to take action as my daughter has not been clean nor sober just absolutely shocks me . She is still using lying asking for money just dispicible and i cant believe she is at the lowest of lows not seen her children sincr October is unnacceptable. I miss my grands i talked to them October . I always had my grandaughters always overnights weekends trips and love and fun when they lived in Delaware . I even had temporary guardianship in 2018 and early 2019 as my daughter then leaving for rehab lived in Delaware. Centre cpunty children protective services and children services are not getting back to me . I need help . Im calling today there again today to turn my daughter in as i told them my concerns in November . Im missing them terribly .

  22. Ashley Ebke says:

    My stepsons daughter was placed in my care 5 months ago by CYS. The goal was originally to keep her until her mother could get her life together and resume care of the child but she hasn't made many if any attempts to do any of the things required of her. I am not comfortable allowing her to go back to her mother who is not responsible and has alot of mental health issues. Is there anything my husband(her biological grandfather) and I can do to keep her or obtain custody? My stepson(her biological father) lives with us but doesn't assist with her care or support her in anyway. He has again to sign his rights over to his father and I. I really just can't bare to see this little girl go back to her mother who is unable to care for her sufficiently.

  23. Margaret Harvey says:

    My 3 grandchildren 11 months 3 yrs. And 5yrs. Are in temporary foster care being that they denied all of the immediate family to get them they are with a stranger! Their mother has supervised visitation and was only supposed to be for a few weeks and has turned into a few months and still has not turned into unsupervised. I work most times but when I can get off early I like to stop in for the last few mins of the visit and see my grand children. This last visit her father came with her and I stopped by at the end as I always do, later my daughter received a message from her CYS CASE WORKER. Stating that she may no longer bring anyone to her visits with her! My question is how can they do that? My daughter is not the only one who loves and misses those kids, I asked to get temporary custody of them when the incident first occurred and they said no because my fiancé has a felony from over 30 years ago and hasn’t been in any trouble since. This is very troubling to me and my daughter, as her other children are also not allowed to see there siblings and are very upset about the matter! Please help us what can we do

  24. Darcia Mbaye says:

    My grandsons mother refuses to allow me to have visitation with him. Hiw can I rectify this issue? Thanks

  25. Lisa says:

    My sons x girlfriend and I had a falling out recently. She wont let me see my granddaughter who will be 1 on March 4th. Prior to the falling out my sons x-girlfriend allowed me to have my granddaughter for many overnight visits and in fact we were close. I should mention they broke up when she was pregnant. My son pays her money each month but has made little effort to connect to his daughter, not from lack of me trying. My granddaughter has her mothers last name. The x girlfriend told me if I want to see my granddaughter then I have to go thru my son and have him get in touch with her. They haven't spoken in almost a year. I cant force my son to reach out to his x and she is banking on that. All of the contact I had with my granddaughter was through my sons x girlfriend through me, my mother(great grand mother) and sister (great Aunt) also had many visits with my grandaughter. Please advise

  26. Raymond Saut says:

    I don't know what to do. My oldest son shut his mother and myself out of their lives, no contact, Zero Contact, with the 3 grandkids. (Ages 7, 5, 3.) We babysat for the last 7 years a couple of times a week.
    Ray Jr. is 37 yrs old, his wife, Vanessa (mother of our grandchildren) is great. Ray has a degree in psychology with a minor in sociology. He is also a 7th grade science teacher. His wife, Ness, is also a school teacher.
    Ok, a little background. Ray Jr, 20 yrs ago, used to threaten to isolate his grandkids from us. He was a young man then, with no woman nor children. Well he made good on his threat.
    His mother Sarah, was a stay at home mom. I worked a lot, but if I wasn't at work I was around, as I had no hobbies. I fear for my wife, for she loves the grandkids so much. It has been 5 months since the estrangement, with no relief in sight.
    Drugs, alcohol, gambling, nor any other vices are present here. Granted, Sarah & I aren't perfect but I think we deserve better. All we want is the see the kids occasionally.
    His reason: BOUNDRIES

    We live in Beaver Falls PA, as does my grandchildren.

  27. Danielle Yates says:

    So very long story but will make it as short as possible. Children and youth became involved because me and my boyfriend at the time were on drugs and we didn't want them to try and take our child away because we were other then the drugs great parents. Not perfect but we were really young. Had her at 17. Needless to say me the father and our child n his parents went to a lawyer and i paid him to make a contract stating that the grandparents would temporarily be watching the child until we got clean and could prove we were clean and then they would give her back and then a judge signed it. I know I would never sign my rights away. Well I've been off street drugs for 3 years and I'm tired of the back and forth of not barely letting me have my daughter. Me and their son split up over 2 years ago and he gets her way more then me! What can I do?! Do I still have rights? Can I just go get her and still have say? Plz email me..

  28. Tammey Knight says:

    I'm seeking visitation with my grandson, my daughter passed June 2, 2021! my grandson has been living with his father since 3/2018, I only visited with my grandson when my daughter had scheduled visits, I was her only transportation so I also got to visit my grandson at that time! may 2021,was the last time I have seen or even talked to my grandson, not by lack of trying, but the father will not reply to text messages or phone calls from me, I also send my grandson cards for every holiday and even just thinking of you cards, of course not knowing if the father even gives them to my grandson? all I want is to be able to continue in his life and love him, watch him grow and be able to spend time with him and do things with him! we had a case in Maryland then on July 22,2022 judge Hecker, left the case open for 6 months to allow me time to find representation along with what filings I'll need to do! there's more to the story of how my grandson became to life with his father, which I'd prefer to say in person! also I have had custody of my grandson for most of his life until 3/2018! which is documented in the court of Carroll county, MD!

  29. Anne b. says:

    Is it possible to get partial custody just for visitation purposes. My son passed 3 years ago my grandson is 5 we have a great relationship but his mom is very controlling and I'm worried now that she is having a baby with someone it's gonna get harder and harder to get my grandson. I just want it. So I can get him a weekend or two a month some Holliday and maybe a few weeks in summer . Without all the issues . Is there some way this can be done

  30. Helen Swasey says:

    Child Services in PA took our 3 day old grandson away from his parents. He will be 18 months old as of Sept 16th. It doesnt look like they plan to return him. My son asked us to wait so we did…. Well WE have rights as grand parents and we want him to raise as our own here in New Hampshire.

  31. Donna M Love says:

    My daughter will not let me see my grandson because she believes that I'm a bad influence because of her father and step mother has put me in a bad light because I gave her father custodian custody of her and her brother when they were young and she feels like I abandoned them but I was trying to think of my children because at that time I had no where to live and I didn't want my children to be homeless with me what can I do?

  32. kim says:

    I would love to see my two grandchildren they are not being abused my son and daughter and law just refuse to let us see them i wanted to see what i can do to see them if there is any help out there it has been over a year and we have not seen them thank you

  33. Kayla Steele says:

    Wow I didn’t have child in dangerment or anything like that and cys clarion county was harassing me Til I signed my rights of my two kids to the fathers dad and wife !!!!I wished I wouldn’t of now I can’t see them !!!The wife gave the one to someone not related to us !!!Cys was called on the person !!!Nothing was fine she still has my kid !!!He was seen on FaceTime love at clarion county jail picking up a supposedly BB gun !!!I don’t care if it was BB gun !Hes only 3 and little boy of course he’s gonna pick it up !!!!!!!!!!!!I don’t got money for laywer !!The wife won’t let me see my kid bc I tell her the truth suppose to want the kids best interest!!!!!!

  34. Nestor Rodriguez says:

    My granddaughter has bing leaving with us since the day that she was born she’s seven years old and her her father is my son but his in drugs and her mother lives in Alabama and looks for her and lake I said my son is in and out of drugs and I haven’t see him for over a month also we pay for her school and everything she needs

  35. Lynda Hoffman says:

    My son and daughter-in-law got a divorce 4 years ago and she totally abandoned my three grandchildren. My son was no way capable of being a single father so he moved in with me. He stayed for about 1year then found a girl friend. He decided to move out but the kids stayed with me. He has since broke up with her and moved back in with me and I gave him a time limit to get a job and move out. After a few months he did and the kids stayed with me. I have never asked for a dime for them and have total control of everything to do with them school doctors everything. I now would like to know how to get guardianship or custody of them full time?

  36. Deborah Kent says:

    The mother of my granddaughter will not let me her every since she got a protection order against my son. Which was done on her jealousy. The house they live in is not fit for anyone let alone my granddaughter. I just want to be able to physically see her to insure she's doing okay.

  37. Veronica L. Spera says:

    September 4th 2018 I received physical and legal custody of my two granddaughters. My son is in jail for c**************** and my grandchildren's mother is an addict. The mother had visitation rights and always had some excuse not to see them when we made visitations. The last times that she saw them was Easter 2019 when she threatened my life and she saw them again with family members on Mother's Day 2019. After that she has made promises to the children and never kept one. She barely called them and had a dozen different phone numbers. Someone the children would try to call her the phone would not be active and we'd have to wait several months for another phone number. So what rights would the mother have to see the children now? And she also never gave them any gift cards I never received any type of voluntary help Etc. Is there a statue of limitations of a parent not seeing their children for a certain amount of time? Thank you

  38. Susan says:

    I'd like to know if grandparents have visitation rights in Pennsylvania. Of course I do not want to go the legal route but I need to understand. My daughter-in-law is the problem, not my son.

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