By Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC posted in Granparent's Custody Rights on Sunday, January 20, 2013
In order to have a stake in the outcome of a dependency matter, one must be a 'party.'
By ** Alyssa H. Knisely**, Grandparent's Rights Attorney, Harrisburg, PA
I have become involved in several cases where my clients do not possess 'standing' and, therefore, the right to 'intervene' in a child depedency matter. To move for intervention in a dependency case, a person is to show an interest in the case that is substantial, direct, and immediate. Under the Juvenile Act, standing is a distinctly legal question that does not address the merits of the adjudication or the propriety of the permanency goal, and the grounds for standing are narrow.
Only a 'party' has the right to participate, to be heard on his or her own behalf, to introduce evidence, and/or to cross-examine witnesses. This Court identified the only three classes of individuals that are conferred standing to participate, introduce evidence, be heard on their own behalf, and cross-examine witnesses during a dependency hearing: (1) the parents of the juvenile whose dependency status is at issue; (2) the legal custodian of the juvenile whose dependency status is at issue, or (3) the person whose care and control of the juvenile is in question. In re J.S., 2009 PA Super 141, 980 A.2d 117 (2009).
The Courts have held that parties who do not have standing in an ongoing dependency proceeding should not be allowed to intervene in such proceeding. By 'standing', the courts mean the right to file pleadings, present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, etc. It means that they can become an active participant in the matter.
Parties who have been held to lack standing to participate in dependency proceedings include-
The child's grandparent or grandparents, when they do not have legal custody of the child. In re D.M., 2010 PA Super 86, 995 A.2d 371 (2010).
Even though a grandparent (natural or step) may not have the right to legally intervene in the child's dependency matter, they may, nonetheless, offer support to the parent or guardian that is attempting to regain custody of the child. For instance, the grandparent may do the following:
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