Grandparents can play a pivotal role in their grandchildren and children’s lives. A grandparent can have the patience, compassion and insight that they may not have displayed when they were raising their own children, thus have a very special relationship with their grandchildren.
Unfortunately, sometimes due to trying and tragic situations, the grandparents’ interactions with their children may be reduced, restricted or eliminated, much to their disappointment and frustration as well as that of the grandchildren. In situations where parent(s) leave their child(ren) due to divorce, separation, deployment, employment, incarceration, abandonment, hospitalization, death or neglect the grandparents may become left out of the equation or may well become the caregivers, but lack the necessary legal standing.
Depending on the circumstances, and the state the child(ren) resides in, grandparents can find relief through the legal system.
In Pennsylvania, for example, grandparents cannot request visitation or legal custody if the parents are alive, live together and the child(ren) never lived with the grandparent. Pennsylvania laws are somewhat confusing, as they do not use the term “visitation.” Instead they refer to seven different types of custody. Grandparents are, however, mentioned specifically as being eligible for two kinds: “partial physical custody” and “supervised physical custody” (visitation).1 Seek the advice of legal counsel for clarification of your rights.
Visitation rights allows visitation only under the supervision of the legal custodian. Custody rights allow a person to visit the child without supervision of the legal guardian.
A grandparent who is already handling the major decisions for a grandchild may want to ask the court for legal custody of the child. The court will evaluate every case based on the best interest of the child.
When can grandparents seek legal remedies in Pennsylvania?
They can seek partial custody or visitation if the grandchild(ren)’s parent died, parents are divorced, or they have been separated for six months or more.
OR a grandparent may seek partial custody or visitation if child(ren) lived with the grandparent for 12 months or more, and then is removed from the grandparent’s home by the grandchild’s parents.
A grandparent may request physical and legal custody if he or she:
(1) has genuine care and concern of the grandchild; and
(2) began their relationship with the grandchild with the consent of one of the parents of the child or due to court order.
(3) the grandparent can say yes to one of the following:
- for at least 12 months in the past assumed the role and responsibilities of the child’s parent, providing for the physical, emotional and social needs of the child.
- had the responsibility for a child who has been adjudicated to be dependent through Child Protective Services.
- the grandparent believes the grandchild is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or mental illness.
Food for thought in divorce situations/when seeking visitation or custody
- Keep a positive tone.
- Commit to harmony in the family. In divorce situations, avoid taking sides as much as possible.
- Be careful about your relationship with your child’s ex; staying close to your grandchildren will be easier if you still have a relationship with your child’s ex, especially if the ex is going to be the primary custodian.
- Consider joining a support group.
Uncertain what to do next or ready to make the next move, for legal advice and representation, call Feldman Law Offices to schedule a consultation – 610-530-9285 Let us help you!
Please note: The hiring of an attorney is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements. Further, prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. The laws change. Each case is different. This blog and website is designed for general information only. The information presented on this site is neither formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.