Custody and Visitation Rights for Grandparents

Grandparents often form emotional bonds with their grandchildren. In several families, grandparents act as caregivers, partaking in raising the child. This relationship may be difficult to preserve when parents divorce or separate. Likewise, the relationship may sever when one parent dies, and the grandparent doesn’t have a good relationship with the other parent.

Pennsylvania family law recognizes that parents have a fundamental right to raise their children without interference. Nonetheless, the law allows grandparents to seek custody and visitation if it doesn’t interfere with the parent’s rights. For a better understanding of your rights as a grandparent, discuss with an attorney who specializes in family law West Chester PA.

When Can Grandparents Request for Visitation?

Pennsylvania doesn’t use the term “visitation” under its new custody law. Instead, it uses “partial physical custody” to describe periods of visitation. Grandparents can seek partial physical custody under the following conditions:

  • The child’s parent(s) is deceased
  • The child’s parents are divorced or separated for six months or more and have filed for divorce
  • The child resided with the grandparent at least 12 consecutive months before his/her removal by the parents. However, grandparents must file an action within six months of the child’s departure from the house.

For any of these conditions, grandparents must show that their request is in the child’s best interest. They must also prove that it doesn’t interfere with the child’s relationship with the parent.

When Grandparents Can Obtain Custody?

Grandparents have no right to custody or to access the child if both parents are residing together, and their marriage is intact. However, under certain circumstances, parents may be unable to raise their children. Pennsylvania will allow grandparents to seek legal or physical custody when:

  • Grandparents relationship with the child began with consent from one parent or a court order
  • The grandparents are willing to assume or have already assumed responsibility of the child, providing for the child’s physical, emotional, and social needs
  • When one of the following conditions is true:
    • The child has determined to be a dependent
    • As a result of parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or mental incapacity, the child is deemed markedly at risk
    • The child resided with the grandparent at least 12 consecutive months before his/her removal by the parents. However, grandparents must file custody action within six months of the child’s departure from the house.

Determining Custody in Court

Grandparents can hire lawyers who practice family law in West Chester, PA, in the same manner, that parents do when seeking custody. However, before awarding custody, the court will consider if the arrangement will serve the child’s best interest. With this consideration, the judge will evaluate the following factors:

  • The child’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being
  • The child’s relationship with grandparents before custody filing
  • The child’s preference, if applicable
  • The impact of the custody arrangement on the child’s development and growth

Conclusion

Child custody and visitation issues typically involve parents, but not always. While grandparents can seek visitation and custody, they have a burden to prove that it’s in the child’s best interest. If you’re concerned about your rights as a grandparent, talk to a professional who understands family law in West Chester, PA.

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