Grandparent Visitation and Custody Rights in Pennsylvania
Grandparents have a long tradition of playing important roles in the lives of their grandchildren. As they are most often retired, they are able to spend more time and partake in more activities with their grandchildren. However, visitation and custody for grandparents in Pennsylvania, while not strict, are also not straightforward. To make it easier to understand and navigate, we will discuss all that you need to know about grandparent visitation and custody rights below.
What is Grandparent Visitation in Pennsylvania?
Grandparent visitation is a legal right that allows grandparents to spend time with their grandchildren in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, visitation is also termed “partial custody.” This partially custodial time can be spent either during the weekdays or weekends, depending on the arrangements made.
It is important to note that visitation rights are not automatic; they must be negotiated and approved by the courts. In order to establish visitation rights, grandparents must show that they are happy to get involved in their grandchildren’s lives and have a genuine interest in spending time with them.
What is Grandparent Custody in Pennsylvania?
Grandparent custody is a legal term that refers to the right of a grandparent to care for their grandchildren. Sometimes referred to as in loco parentis, in Pennsylvania, grandparent custody is typically granted when one or both parents are unable to provide proper care for their children. Grandparents may also seek grandparent custody in order to have more time with their grandchildren, but more importantly, in order to ensure that their grandchildren receive a positive upbringing.
Just as is the case with grandparent visitation, grandparents may file for custody of their grandchildren in Pennsylvania if they can demonstrate a strong relationship with the child and if exercising custody would be in the best interest of the child. In order to qualify for custody, grandparents must show that they have been providing care and support to the child for a significant period of time, have made reasonable efforts to establish a relationship with the child’s parents, and are not abusing or neglecting the child. If grandparents are awarded custody, they will generally receive primary physical custody of the child and will be responsible for making decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and religious upbringing.
On What Grounds Might Grandparent Visitation Rights Be Granted in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, grandparents may be granted visitation rights in the following instances:
- The grandchild has lost one of their parents.
- A divorce decree has been entered, or the parents have been legally separated for at least six months.
- A year has passed since the child stopped living with his parents, during which time the grandparents have cared for them.
While these are the main things that are considered by the courts before visitation grants are granted, the following grounds on which visitation may also be granted include:
- Proof that the child is substantially deprived of parental care.
- Proof that there is a substantial risk of physical or psychological harm to the child if visitation is not allowed.
- Proof that granting visitation would not be contrary to the best interests of the child.
On What Grounds Might Grandparent Custody Rights Be Granted in Pennsylvania?
Grandparent custody rights are granted in Pennsylvania on the following grounds:
- The parents are unable or unwilling to provide such care. An example of this would be when one or both parents have been incarcerated.
- The child has a close relationship with the grandparent and would be detrimentally affected by the removal of that grandparent from his or her life. An example of this is when the child’s parents were in jail, and the child lived with the grandparent for an extended period of time, and the child is very attached to the grandparent. Therefore, it may be detrimental to remove that grandparent from their life, especially if the child’s school, extracurricular activities, and friends are all domiciled near the grandparents’ residence.
- The child does not have regular contact with either parent (e.g., when the parents require frequent mental treatment), which would make it difficult for the child to get along with both parents in a healthy way.
- The parents have failed to establish a meaningful relationship with their children in recent history, which suggests that they are not likely to do so in the future if given custody of them.
- The parents are dead.
It is important to note that courts will often take into consideration one or more of the above factors. It is also important to note that sometimes, a grandchild custody filing may not be granted, but may be granted as “partial custody,” depending on all the circumstances surrounding the case.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What If the Grandchild is Adopted?
A grandparent can not get visitation and custody of a grandchild if the child has been adopted. This is because the adoption creates a legal relationship between the grandparent and the child that is different from the one that existed before the adoption.
2. What Happens if the Grandparent Lives in Another County or State?
Regardless of where the grandparent lives, it is important to file a petition for visitation or custody with the appropriate court. The appropriate court, in this case, would be one that is in a Pennsylvania county where the child must have been domiciled for at least six months. This can be demonstrated by showing that the child had been present in that county for half the year. If the child has been moved recently, you need to go back to the previous county where the child resided to file for grandparent visitation or custody.
3. Who Can Petition for Grandparent Visitation and Custody of a Grandchild in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania law allows grandparents to file a petition to seek visitation or custody of their grandchild(ren). However, as the laws in this state are complex, it is best to work with a skilled family law attorney who can help you get the best results if you decide to file a petition. For example, you may want to contact one of our attorneys if you need help with building a strong case based on your specific situation.