What rights do grandparents have as child custodians?

There may be many reasons necessitating that grandparents step in to raise grandchildren but there are clear parameters around this in Pennsylvania.

In the ideal world, every child in Pennsylvania could be raised, loved and nurtured by his or her parents. Sadly, however, that is not always possible. There may be many situations that necessitate someone other than a parent raising a child and that someone is often a grandparent or set of grandparents.

Whether due to domestic violence, drug abuse, mental illness or something else, how can a grandparent seek custody of a grandchild in Pennsylvania?

General custody consideration factors

When evaluating any child custody request, Pennsylvania courts will consider many factors, each of which is identified as supporting the child's best interest. Among these are whether a parent can or will facilitate a bond between the child and the other parent or if that parent will instead try to pit the child against the other parent.

Any existence of abuse, harm or danger posed to a child will always be taken seriously when determining who will have custody of a child. The health - both physical and mental - of the parents is also taken into consideration.

Courts also will look at how well a person is able to provide a stable living and home environment for a child. This may include the proximity to a child's established community and school, extended family and friends as well as any needed childcare. In addition, courts assess who is best fit to provide the necessary love and emotional support for a child.

Additional criteria for grandparents

When a grandparent is requesting custody, courts will look at that grandparent's potential interference with a relationship between the child and the parents. Another concern will be how much contact the child and the grandparent have had before the request for custody was initiated. At the end of the day, it is still the best interests of the child that will lead any final determination of custody.

Not always an easy path for grandparents

TribLive reported on a case in 2015 in which paternal grandparents were seeking custody of their grandchildren. The parents had divorced and were living in separate counties and had allegedly tried to bar contact between the grandparents and their children. Details about why are not known.

At the end of the day, the judge in the case said ruled against the grandparents even though the state's Grandparent's Visitation Act gives grandparents the right to seek custody if parents have been separated for more than six months.

Getting help with custody is important

Parents and grandparents alike should always reach out to an attorney for help when child custody issues arise. While there are laws in place, individual circumstances can make a big difference in the final outcomes so working with a professional is recommended.


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