For many families, grandparents have a large role in the lives and upbringing of the grandchildren. However, a parent has the constitutional right to raise their child and make medical, educational, and visitation decisions for the child. Generally, the grandparents’ rights are almost always overruled by the parents’ rights to raising a child. Though, in most states, and if the situation meets certain requirements, grandparents have the right to petition the courts for visitation or even custody.
In Pennsylvania, grandparents can file an action for custody if the child is being neglected or abused by the parent. A grandparent may do this when:
- The grandparent already assumes custody of the child or is willing to assume custody.
- The grandparent/grandchild relationship is encouraged by the parent or is the result of a court order.
- One of these conditions is met:
- The child is dependent and under the age of 18 years.
- They are at risk of parental neglect, abuse, or drug and alcohol abuse.
- The child has lived with the grandparent for 12 months consecutively.
Even if these requirements are met, the court will determine whether the custody is in the best interest of the child.
In addition, the court can grant grandparents different levels of custody depending on the family’s circumstances:
- Partial physical custody: The grandparents are given the right to plan trips and outings with the children.
- Supervised physical custody: This is for when the parents control the visitations.
- Full physical custody: The grandparents are given full custody in cases where both parents are absent, unfit, or the parents surrender their custody of the child.
When parents go to court over custody, the grandparents are able to protect their visitation rights and could intervene. However, the grandparents only have standing to do so if the situation meets certain requirements, such as:
- The parents have started custody proceedings or a divorce case.
- The grandparent/grandchild relationship must have started either with a court order or with the parents’ consent.
For example, if the parents are in the middle of divorce proceedings and the grandparents would like to have partial custody of the child, the grandparents can file their own motion. This is essentially asking the court to overrule a parent’s decision.
Grandparents’ Visitation Laws in Pennsylvania
There is no federal law that protects the grandparents’ right to visitation. Visitation and custody laws for grandparents depend on the state that you reside.
If both parents agree that visitation by the grandparents are not in the best interests of the child, the courts in Pennsylvania will likely favor the parents. Even if the criteria is met, a grandparent seeking visitation must still show that it is in the child’s best interest.
A grandparent’s visitation must also not interfere with the parents’ relationship with the child. Furthermore, granting visitation depends on several factors, such as:
- How the grandparent/grandchild relationship has been historically.
- The child’s preferences if they are old enough to decide.
- The child’s mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.
- The child’s school location and extracurricular activities in which they are involved.
- The child’s developmental, social, and intellectual growth.
- If anyone in the household is a threat to the child.
- If it is in the best interest of the child.
Chester County Child Custody Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Protect the Visitation Rights of Grandparents
The grandparent and grandchild relationship is an important dynamic in many families. If you are a grandparent and are seeking visitation or custody of your grandchild, it is imperative that you have a lawyer on your side. Our Chester County child custody lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. are here to help. Call us at 610-565-3701 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.