What Rights are Guaranteed to Grandparents under PA Law?

If you are a grandparent whose grandchild lives in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and you fear losing contact due to divorce or the death of your child, then you need to know what rights are guaranteed to grandparents under Pennsylvania law. Pennsylvania’s laws surrounding family issues are unique in many ways, and one of the most important are the laws regarding grandparents’ rights. Interestingly, Pennsylvania laws surrounding access to children do not use the term visitation at all: instead, they use the term custody, and they specifically provide two different types of custody that are available for grandparents.

The two types of custody that grandparents are eligible for are partial physical custody and supervised physical custody. Partial physical custody permits grandparents to take their grandchildren on outings and trips wherever they like, while supervised physical custody gives the custodial parent the right to make decisions as to where contact takes place.

Grandparents and great-grandparents are eligible for these two types of custody under highly specific circumstances. In order to have the standing to seek these forms of visitation, their child who is the parent of the grandchild must have died or the child’s parents must be either divorced or have filed for divorce. There is no right to access to grandchildren in situations where a family is intact.

There is also an additional visitation right that has been granted to grandparents whose grandchildren had lived with them for 12 months or more. In this case, if the parents have removed the child from their home and deny them visitation thereafter, the grandparents can file for either partial or supervised physical custody. This filing must take place within six months of the child being removed from their home.

As is always the case in Pennsylvania where child custody and visitation is being discussed, the court’s primary interest lies in what is in the best interests of the child. If there is any evidence supporting the idea that a grandparent having visitation rights would interfere with the child’s relationship with their parent, the court might rule against the grandparent.

Grandchildren often provide great joy to their grandparents, and there is extensive evidence that it is vitally important for children to have the benefit of extended family in their lives. If you are facing the possibility of separation from your grandchild as a result of a death or divorce, you do have rights. Contact our office today to learn how we can help you maintain your relationships with your cherished family members.