Grandparents’ Rights In Pennsylvania
When parents get divorced, they may not always agree on how to continue relationships with extended family members, especially grandparents. If one parent is awarded more time with the children than the other, it can affect how often the child sees one pair of grandparents. Even outside a divorce situation, some parents may make the decision to reduce or terminate a relationship between their children and their grandparents. All these situations can lead grandparents to seek grandparents’ rights to visitation and in some cases, custody.
Grandparents in several states in the United States can seek visitation with their grandchildren by asking a court to require the parents to allow the visitation. Often, the grandparents are only allowed to have these rights under limited circumstances. In Pennsylvania for instance, grandparents can be awarded the right to visitation but only if:
- one of the parents is dead;
- the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months or began divorce proceedings; or
- the child has lived with the grandparents for twelve months or more.
A grandparent in Pennsylvania can apply for custody of a grandchild if:
- The grandparent has a pre-existing relationship with the child that began before the petition, either with the consent of the parent or pursuant to a court order;
- The grandparent is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and,
- One of the following is true – the child is a dependent child; the child is at risk of parental abuse or neglect; or, the child has lived with the grandparent for twelve months or more before being removed by the parents.
If the child had lived with the grandparents for a more than twelve-month period of time before being removed by a parent, the grandparents have to file for visitation or custody within six months of the removal. If the grandparents wait longer than this to file, it may affect the court’s decision on whether to grant the grandparents’ request.
As with the right to seek visitation, when these conditions are met, it allows the grandparent to petition the court for custody, it does not mean the grandparent is guaranteed visitation or custody. The court considers many factors in determining whether to award a grandparent custody or visitation, and the focus is always on the child’s best interest. The court also considers the relationship between the child and the grandparent.
The Supreme Court of the United States has held that grandparents’ rights should not interfere with parents’ rights, and this is always an overarching concern for any court deciding whether grandparents’ rights are appropriate in a particular case. If a child is adopted, the biological grandparents no longer have the rights to petition for custody or visitation.
Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney
Whether you are going through a divorce or a separation, or your spouse has passed away and you are worried about the possibility of your child’s grandparents seeking visitation or custody, you need to contact an experienced child custody attorney. Contact us at Barbara Flum Stein & Associates, serving Delaware County, Pennsylvania in all family law matters to schedule a consultation.