Grandparents Have Custody Rights Under Specific Circumstances
Unlike many states, if the mother and father of the child are married, then a grandparent cannot sue for custody. Pennsylvania law allows an intact family to raise their children without interference from a grandparent or any other third party.
Things get complicated if the mother and father of the child are not married. Pennsylvania law gives grandparents favored third-party status to any other form of relationship. The first thing a grandparent needs to do is establish standing to sue for custody or visitation. Standing can be established in the following three ways:
- If the parent (who is their child) is dead
- If the parents are divorced
- If the parents have filed for divorce or have been separated for six months or more
In these circumstances, the court is instructed to consider the amount of personal contact that took place before the application.
What If A Child Resides With Grandparents?
In an additional scenario, if the child resided with the grandparent for twelve months or more and was removed from the grandparent’s home by parents, the court may award partial physical custody or supervised physical custody, but suit must be filed within six months after the removal.
In all the situations listed above, the court must consider whether visitation is in the child’s best interest and whether visitation with grandparents would interfere with the parent-child relationship. Great-grandparents have the same rights as grandparents. The adoption of a child terminates visitation rights unless the adopting party is a stepparent, grandparent or great-grandparent.
One of the realities of grandparents’ rights is that the grandparent of the child must sue his or her own child in order to establish custody rights. Grandparents’ rights not only offer unique legal problems, but they also present unique interfamilial problems. As always, the court’s primary concern is the best interests of the child. A strong and meaningful relationship with a grandparent is often in the best interests of the child.