Pennsylvania Grandparents’ Rights: What You Need to Know
All my Pennsylvania grandparents, please stand up, please stand up, please stand up! Whether you’re a young, spritely grandparent who just wants to spend more time with your grandchildren, or you’re a mature, aging grandparent who has been the primary caretaker of your grandchildren for years, it’s time to stand up and learn your Pennsylvania-given rights regarding visitation and custody.
Visitation (a.k.a. partial custody)
A grandparent can seek visitation if the grandchild’s nuclear family unit is broken – think: divorce or separation. More specifically, a grandparent can file an action for partial custody when:
- one or both of the grandchild’s parents are deceased, or
- the grandchild’s parents have been separated for at least six months or have filed a divorce or separation action, or
- the grandchild has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 months.
However, even if you can meet one of the above factors, the court still needs to determine that visitation would be in your grandchild’s best interest and would not disrupt the parent/child relationship.
Custody differs from visitation in that the grandchild would reside with the grandparent full-time as opposed to only visits. Grandparents most commonly seek this form of custody when they are concerned about abuse or neglect of the grandchild. A grandparent can seek custody when:
- the grandparent has a relationship with the grandchild that was encouraged by the grandchild’s parent(s) or was part of a court order,
- the grandparent has custody of the grandchild or is willing to assume custody, and
- one of the additional factors is met:
- the grandchild is a dependent child under the age of 18
- the grandchild is at a substantial risk of parental neglect, abuse or drug and alcohol abuse, or
- the grandchild has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months.
However, similar to seeking visitation, even if you can meet the above factors, a court must determine that awarding custody to a grandparent serves the grandchild’s best interests.
If you’re a grandparent seeking some assistance with visitation or custody, feel free to reach out to our firm. We would be more than happy to answer any of your questions and steer you in the right direction.
Okay, grandparents. It’s safe to sit down now.