New laws regarding grandparent rights in Pennsylvania give grandparents standing to petition for primary physical custody for a child or partial physical custody (visitation). 2018 Act 21 clarifies when a grandparent may seek visitation with their grandchild and when a grandparent has
Grandparent Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania
According to the new law, grandparents can petition the court for visitation rights (partial physical custody) under three circumstances:
- The grandchild’s parent is no longer living;
- The grandparents filed an action seeking visitation rights within six months of a grandchild being removed from the grandparents’ home, provided the grandchild resided with the grandparents for twelve consecutive months before being removed; and,
- A situation in which the grandparents’ relationship with their grandchild began under a court order or with the consent of a parent and the parents of the child have filed an action for custody and the parents do not agree about whether the grandparents should have custody of the grandchild.
The above circumstances existed before the new law was enacted. However, the law made a substantial change to the third circumstance. Under the old law, the third circumstance did not require that the grandparents had a relationship with their grandchild. The change in the law prevents grandparents who have not had a relationship with their grandchild from petition the court for custody or visitation simply because the parents commenced a divorce action or separated.
Grandparents Must Still Prove Visitation is in the Best Interest of the Child
Even though grandparents may have the right to file seek partial physical custody or visitation with their grandchild, there is a difference between having “standing” to bring a court action and being granted visitation rights. Grandparents must prove that awarding visitation rights with their grandchild is in the best interest of the child.
The court considers several factors in determining the best interest of the child. Factors a judge considers when determining the best interests of a child regarding awarding grandparents partial physical custody or supervised physical custody are:
- The amount of personal contact between the grandparents and the child before the filing of the action;
- Whether awarding visitation with the grandparents will interfere with the parent-child relationship; and,
- If awarding visitation is in the best interests of the child.
Working with Pennsylvania Child Visitation Attorneys to Prove What is in the Best Interest of the Child
Judges may consider a wide range of factors when determining the best interest of a child. Code Section 5328 lists 16 factors that a judge may consider when determining the best interests of a child. The last factor allows a judge to consider “any other relevant factor.”
Grandparents who wish to obtain visitation rights with their child should work closely with experienced Pennsylvania child visitation attorneys to ensure they have sufficient evidence to prove that visitation with their grandchild is in the best interest of the child before they file their action with the court. Contact our Pennsylvania child custody lawyers today.