Maintaining the Special Role of Grandparents

Do grandparents have custody rights in Pennsylvania?

Navigating a divorce can be complicated for a family, and questions of custody of the children can become contentious. While these issues must be resolved by the divorcing spouses, the rights of grandparents are also an important consideration for those who have close relationships with their grandchildren. In Pennsylvania, the courts recognize the limited visitation and custody rights of grandparents.

Custody Rights

Under Pennsylvania law, a grandparent can pursue partial custody, if the child’s parent(s) is deceased or when the parents have been separated for at least 6 months.  Grandparents can also pursue partial custody if the parents have filed for divorce or separation or if the child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12consecutive months. In making a decision to grant partial custody, the court will consider the strength of the grandparent-child bond. Further, the grandparent must demonstrate that this will not interfere with or otherwise harm the parent-child relationship.

There are also circumstances when a grandparent can pursue a custody action, particularly if the child is being abused or neglected by a parent. The court will consider granting custody if the relationship with the child was supported by the parent or the relationship arises as the result of a court order. There are other conditions that must be met, and awarding custody to the grandparent must be in the best interest of the child. In this regard, the court will consider the contact between the child and the grandparent and whether awarding custody will interfere with the parent-child relationship. In the end, the child’s emotional and physical needs must be met.

The Takeway

In sum, in a divorce proceeding in Pennsylvania, grandparents have limited rights to visitation and custody even though these rights are secondary to the rights of the parent(s). Ultimately, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the child – the standard applied in all matters related to child custody. If you have questions about your rights as a grandparent, you should speak to an experienced child custody attorney.