Grandparents’ Rights for Custody in Pennsylvania

By: Greg Artim

In Pennsylvania, Grandparents have the opportunity to seek custody of a Grandchild under limited circumstances. The Pennsylvania Statute enunciated at 23 Pa.C.S.A. ? 5313, sets forth the circumstances under which a Grandparent may petition for Custody of a Grandchild.

A Grandparent may petition for Partial Custody and Visitation where an unmarried child has resided with his grandparents or great-grandparents for a period of 12 months or more and is subsequently removed from the home by his parents. The court will grant the petition if it finds that visitation rights would be in the "best interests of the child" and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. The best interests of the child is the standard used in all custody cases in Pennsylvania. In it core form, the best interests of the child means what is best for the child’s physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual well being.

A Grandparent may petition for Full Physical and Legal Custody of a grandchild if it is in the best interest of the child to not be in the custody of either parent.

In order to qualify for such type of custody, the Grandparent must (1) have genuine care and concern for the child; (2) have a relationship with the child which began with the consent of a parent of the child or pursuant to an order of court; and (3) who for 12 months or more has assumed the role and responsibilities of the child's parent, providing for the physical, emotional and social needs of the child, or who assumes the responsibility for a child who has been determined to be a dependent child or who assumes or deems it necessary to assume responsibility for a child who is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or mental illness.

In attempting to establish a Grandparent’s rights to either Partial or Full CustodyHealth Fitness Articles,the Pennsylvania Courts will considerthe following factors: (1) the amount of disruption extensive visitation would cause in the child's life; (2) the suitability of the grandparents' home (3) the emotional ties between the child and the grandparents; (4) the moral fitness of the grandparents; (5) the distance between the child's home and the grandparents' home; (6) the potential for the grandparents to undermine the parent's general disciplining of the child as a result of visitation; (7) whether the grandparents are employed and the responsibilities associated with such employment; (8) the amount of hostility that exists between the parent and the grandparents; and (9) the willingness of the grandparents to accept the fundamental concept that the rearing of the child is the parent's responsibility and is not to be interfered with by the grandparents.

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