Grandparents Rights in PA – Everything You Need To Know 

Grandparents rights in PS, child custody, family law

Can grandparents seek visitation or partial custody of their grandchildren?

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. 

Understanding the definitions related to 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.

There are two different ways under which grandparents can 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:
  1. the child has been determined to be a dependent child;
  2. the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
  3. 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.

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 can grandparents get custody of their 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.

  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.

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