Harrisburg Grandparents' Rights Attorneys
Pennsylvania laws now provide grandparents with the right to seek visitation, partial custody, and full legal and physical custody in specific situations. Whether you are a grandparent pursuing those rights or a parent challenging grandparent rights, the attorneys of Scaringi Law, in Harrisburg and Newport, have the experience and dedication you need. We guide clients through the legal process, advocating for their rights and the best interests of the child. Contact our family lawyers for compassionate representation in central Pennsylvania.
Call Us to Learn About Grandparents' Rights: (717) 775-7195
In most circumstances, it is in the child's best interest to have continued and regular contact and interaction with the child's grandparents. Grandparents can provide the kind of care and support, infused with wisdom and experience, which a grandchild needs. When grandparents' rights are granted, they are usually granted in the form of visitation or partial child custody.
Our attorneys at Scaringi Law can help prepare your unique position in such a difficult situation.
Many circumstances may influence a grandparent to seek visitation or custody of their grandchild, such as:
- Divorce: When parents divorce or separate, it is common for the parents of the non-custodial parent to be shut out of their grandchild's life. This is unfortunate, as every child should have the opportunity to develop a meaningful relationship with both sets of grandparents. We help clients obtain visitation rights so that they may spend quality time with their grandchildren.
- Chemical dependency: Because of the dangers caused by a parent's alcohol abuse, drug abuse, or other chemical abuse, chemical dependency can make a parent unfit to have sole custody. Grandparents often take on the role of providing supportive care to the child or children in these situations.
- Illness, disease, or death: Whether a parent has suddenly passed away, suffers from a mental illness, or is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, it may be necessary to appoint a grandparent as the child's guardian. In these instances, grandparents may be granted partial custody or visitation rights.
- Incarceration: If one or both parents of a child are incarcerated, the grandparents may be granted temporary child custody or visitation rights.
- Prior agreement: Often times, a parent may decide that it is in the child's best interest to be raised by the grandparents. This is often the case for teen pregnancies. However, the parent may later attempt to revoke the agreement. If the child has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 months, the grandparent may be eligible to pursue primary physical custody and full legal custody.
- Abuse or neglect: When parents are found to have put their child in danger of serious harm, it is necessary for third parties to get involved. In this grave situation, it is possible for the grandparent to be awarded full physical and legal custody to protect the children.
Custody of at-Risk Children
Pennsylvania law is very specific as to who may bring actions in court for custody over children. Part of the Grandparents Rights Act is found in Title 23, Section 5324 of the Pennsylvania Code. This statute lists which individuals are allowed to file an action for physical or legal custody, and in some cases, when they are allowed to bring an action for custody.
To no surprise, the first individuals listed with authority to bring an action for custody are the legal parents of the children. However, what happens when the parents are unable to care for their children? The following portions of the statute list individuals other than the parents who can file for custody.
Particular to my recent consults, the statute makes clear that a grandparent, who is standing in loco parentis to the child (i.e. this means the grandparent is serving as the functional equivalent of the parents with the parents’ consent), can file for any type of custody. Further, a grandparent, who is not presently standing-in as parent for the grandchild, may file for custody under the following circumstances:
- The grandparent’s relationship with the grandchild began either with the consent of the parent of the child or under a court order;
- The grandparent has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child;
AND when one of the following has been met:
- 1. The child has been determined to be a dependent by the juvenile court;
- The child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity;
- OR the child has resided with the grandparent for a period of 12 consecutive months, the legal parents removed the child from the grandparent’s home, and the grandparent files a custody action within six months after the removal.
There are two points to take away from the above law: First, it is possible for grandparents to assume legal and physical custody over their grandchildren; Second, the right to ask the court for custody over grandchildren is limited to specific circumstances.
I emboldened section “2” above since this is the primary reason why grandparents come to me in the first place. One hopes they never need to stand between their children and their grandchildren. Unfortunately, the times when grandparents have come to me were well after their adult children have failed in caring for their own children.
In my experience, drugs are often an issue with one or both the biological parents and the grandparents need to step in to shield their grandchildren from this toxic behavior. In other cases, I’ve learned of instances of physical abuse that put the grandchildren at risk for bodily harm. No child should have to be exposed to this type of environment. Fortunately, these children have grandparents that care for them and are willing to help in any way possible.
Learn more about grandparents' rights and determine what rights you may have. Contact our family law attorneys in Newport and Harrisburg to have an experienced, compassionate, and understanding lawyer on your side.