Understanding Grandparents’ Rights to Seek Custody in PA

What a family should know about grandparents rights

  Being a grandparent is a rewarding and often life changing role. Providing love and support to a grandchild is a wonderful aspect of watching a family grow. Unfortunately, there are instances where this may be disrupted. Death of a spouse or divorce could drive a wedge between a grandparent and child. As care takers and loving family, grandparents often fear losing the relationship or contact with the child following such events. Grandparents' rights to seek custody and visitation do exist in Pennsylvania and help protect the best interests of the child.

The current terminology to describe custody arrangements pertains to the rights to remove the child from custodial, parental control. Physical custody is described and broken down into primary physical custody, partial physical custody, sole physical custody, or supervised physical custody. Grandparents have rights to pursue all of these forms of custody.

For grandparents wondering if they are able to gain one of these forms of custody, they must have legal standing to initiate an action. Pursuant to § 5324 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code, grandparents rights are determined by the following:

(3) A grandparent of the child who is not in loco parentis to the child:

(i) whose relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent

of the child or under a court order;

(ii) who assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and

(iii) when one of the following conditions is met:

(A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters);

(B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or

(C) 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.

Grandparents seeking custody of a child whose parents are together have to present clear and convincing evidence to combat parental presumption. This is the principle that custody of a child ought to be granted to a fit parent rather than another person.

Factors considered by the court include the following depending upon the situation. For grandparents seeking custody because of a parent's death or in the event of separation, the court will consider the amount of personal contact between the child and grandparent; whether the award interferes with the parent/child relationship; whether or not it is in the best interests of the child. The amount of personal contact is not considered in cases where the child has lived with the grandparents for the previous twelve months.

If you are a grandparent seeking custody of a minor grandchild, we know you are facing a temperamental and difficult situation. You need a Bucks County custody lawyer that can provide the representation you need to exercise grandparents rights and help fight for the best interests of the child. Call the Law Offices of Michael Kuldiner, P.C. to schedule a consultation with our experienced attorneys, at (215) 693-6191.