Montgomery County Third-Party Visitation Lawyer
Maintain a Relationship with a Non-Biological Child
The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is true for many people, especially those who are single parents. If your best friend, sister, or brother reaches out to you to help raise their child, you would do it in a heartbeat. Parents sometimes go through things, and they need to rely on others to look out for their children while they seek help or get financially stable.
As an extended family member, you love the child like she’s your own, but what happens when the parent assumes his or her full role again? Can the parent just take the child away from you? It can be hard to go from seeing a child every day to see a child sporadically or not at all. Stepparents, too, have to go through the stress of worrying if they will lose all contact with a shared child once they divorce the biological parent.
You may feel helpless in this situation, but there are ways to maintain a relationship with a child who is not biologically yours in Pennsylvania. One of those is with third-party visitation.
What Is Third-Party Visitation?
If you played an important role in a child’s life because his or her biological parents were unable to for any reason, you can seek third-party visitation rights. Third-party visitation rights allow you to have designated time with the child through a court order. Those who can be rewarded third-party visitation in Pennsylvania are:
Grandparents have the best chance of being granted visitation, especially if the child lived with them for over 12 months previously, if they are the parents of one of the child’s parents who is now deceased, or if their lack of seeing the child is due to a divorce.
Before petitioning the court for visitation with the child, remember that for a judge to grant visitation, you must prove that it will be in the best interests of the child, and that the child will be heavily impacted by not having you in his or her life on a consistent basis. We recommend speaking to a skilled Montgomery County visitation attorney about kind of evidence you need to show the court.
Stepparents and Visitation
Throughout the years, Pennsylvania courts have slowly given more rights to stepparents after a divorce. Although the majority of the time the judge will side with what the child’s biological parent wants, he or she will also take a close look at the answers to these questions before making a final order granting or denying visitation to the stepparent:
- How close are the stepparent and child, emotionally?
- Does the stepparent have any children of his/her own, who are close with the child?
- How much will the child suffer if visitation rights aren't granted to the stepparent?
- How involved is the stepparent in the child's day-to-day life?
- How long has the stepparent filled the role of parent to this child?
- How much financial support has the stepparent provided to the child?
- What are the biological parents’ feelings about the relationship between stepparent and child?
Legal adoption is the only guaranteed way for a stepparent to have rights to a child after a divorce. However, Pennsylvania only allows two parents total, so in order for a stepparent to adopt, one of the child’s biological parents must give up his/her parental rights or have them terminated by the court.
You may be confused about what you should do in this situation. If your relationship with the biological parents is in good standing, you may not want to upset them or make them feel like you do not trust them with their own child. But if you are a stepparent or relative who loves the child, it is worth fighting for the right to stay in the child’s life, and speaking to a Pennsylvania visitation attorney is the first step towards that goal.
At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., our attorneys have over 25 years of experience in Pennsylvania family law and will handle your case professionally. Contact our office at (866) 290-9292 for a free consultation.