What is Third Party Visitation?

The state of Pennsylvania takes an active role in assuring the wellbeing of children, and that active role can take many forms. When it comes to situations where divorcing or estranged parents and other interested parties are struggling with who can spend time or take responsibility for the child, the courts have created a variety of types of custody and visitation to accommodate requests and concerns in a way that serves the best interests of the child.

Third party visitation is one type of arrangement that the state has allowed. The state defines visitation as the right to see and spend quality time with a child. It is not the same as custody and does not confer the right to take control of a child from the custodial parent. When visitation is conferred on a third party it usually refers to a grandparent, though others who have been involved with a child (such as a stepparent) can also be provided third party visitation rights. Visitation can be either supervised or unsupervised. Those who want to pursue third party visitation need to be able to prove that they either already have or are willing to take responsibility for the child and that they have a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the child’s welfare.

Beyond third party visitation, grandparents and other third parties can also seek any type of custody — including legal and/or physical custody – based upon similar requirements. The requirements for a third party to seek custody include having already had a relationship with the child that began with the consent of the parent or under a court order; willingness to assume responsibility for the child; and a determination that the child is dependent or substantially at risk due to parental neglect, abuse, drug or alcohol abuse or some other type of incapacity. Custody can also be sought by a grandparent or other third party if it can be shown that the child had lived with the individual for a minimum of 12 consecutive months; if the parent of the child has died; if the parents have been separated for at least six months or have begun and continued a divorce proceeding; and when the child has lived with the grandparent or great-grandparent for at least 12 months and was then removed from the home by the parents. In the latter case, the grandparent or great grandparent must initiate a custody action within six months of the time that the child has been removed.

In all cases, Pennsylvania’s judicial system prioritizes the best interests of the child. If you are interested in pursuing third party visitation you need the help of an empathetic, proactive attorney. Contact us today to learn how we can help.