What are the Laws Surrounding Grandparent Rights in Pennsylvania?

Custody and visitation of minor children represents one of the most emotional aspects of family law. Divorce and other disruptive situations can lead to heart-wrenching separations, and consideration of grandparents is often lacking. Fortunately, the state of Pennsylvania has taken specific action in recognition of the role that grandparents often play in a child’s life. Though parents are generally assumed to be the primary or best caretaker of a child, this is not always the case, and when proven otherwise, grandparents may be assigned custody.

Grandparent can be assigned custody if they have assumed the role of parent and the parent has abandoned their parenting role, assuming that the parent consents or fails to object to this arrangement. Alternatively, if grandparents want to seek custody without this type of consent or proof that they’ve previously assumed the parental role, they need to show that they are willing to do so, that certain conditions reflecting real need exist (i.e., the child is at risk due to parental abuse or drug or alcohol use, or if the child has lived with the grandparents for at least the previous 12 consecutive months and was subsequently removed from the grandparents’ home by the parent).

Beyond these situations, grandparents – and even great grandparents – are able to file for partial custody or visitation rights if they are able to prove that they have standing to sue for these rights, though this arrangement will not be approved when both of the child’s parents object. Where this specific situation does not exist, the grandparents or great grandparents need to establish the existence of any of the following circumstances:

  • That their child or grandchild was the parent of the child at the heart of the claim, and is now deceased; or
  • That the parents of the child at the heart of the claim are in the midst of a custody proceeding and disagree regarding grandparent or great grandparent partial custody or visitation, despite the grandparent or great grandparent having a relationship with the child; or
  • That the child at the heart of the claim has lived with the grandparents for at least the past 12 consecutive months and was removed from their home by the child’s parents.

If you are a grandparent or great grandparent concerned about losing contact with a beloved child, you need compassionate legal guidance and representation. Contact us today to learn more about your rights.