Do Grandparents Have the Right to Child Custody in Pennsylvania?
Many Pennsylvania grandparents play a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren. Some are primary caretakers and many have regular contact with their grandchildren including long visits and holiday celebrations. During a divorce, the parents will have to negotiate custody rights and their terms may not include rights for the grandparents. It is important in these types of situations for grandparents to learn about their legal rights and options.
The Child Custody Act went into effect in Pennsylvania in 2011. It allows grandparents to file for custody of a grandchild. For a grandparent to request sole custody of a grandchild, he or she must:
- File for custody instead of the parent;
- Have a relationship with the child with consent from the parent or through a court order;
- Be willing to assume responsibility for the child;
- Prove the child is a dependent or that the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse or neglect; or
- Show the child has resided with the grandparent for a least 12 consecutive months
Grandparents may seek partial physical custody or supervised physical custody of a grandchild:
- If the parent is deceased;
- The parents are separated for at least six month; or
- The child has resided for 12 consecutive months with the grandparent
If a grandparent can prove that he or she qualifies for custody, the court will evaluate the request similar to how they review a parent’s request for custody. Factors that will affect custody include the best interests of the child, the grandparent’s willingness to encourage contact with the parents, the need for stability in the child’s education, the grandparent’s ability to maintain a stable environment, and the reasonable desires of the child.
If you are a grandparent who wishes to obtain partial or full custody of your grandchild, make sure you seek legal guidance. You have rights, and you may be able to legally receive custody of your grandchild, but you will need help proving that it is in the best interest of the child. Please contact an experienced Pennsylvania grandparents’ rights attorney who can ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way.
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