Grandparents do have rights to primary or partial physical custody of their grandchildren, depending on the type of relationship that can be proven. Courts determine custody using a best interest of the child standard. You should immediately consult with an attorney in your area who is familiar with grandparent's rights in custody. My office is located in Dauphin County and I handle divorce, custody and support actions in Dauphin and the surrounding counties.
From your description of the background, it does seem that your facts may entitle you to ask for custody or partial custody. For your information, the statute is included below:
§ 5313. When grandparents may petition
(a) Partial custody and visitation.--If 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 grandparents or great-grandparents may petition the court for an order granting them reasonable partial custody or visitation rights, or both, to the child. The court shall grant the petition if it finds that visitation rights would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
(b) Physical and legal custody.--A grandparent has standing to bring a petition for physical and legal custody of a grandchild. If it is in the best interest of the child not to be in the custody of either parent and if it is in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of the grandparent, the court may award physical and legal custody to the grandparent. This subsection applies to a grandparent:
(1) who has genuine care and concern for the child;
(2) whose relationship with the child began with the consent of a parent of the child or pursuant to an order of court; and
(3) who for 12 months 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 pursuant to 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters) 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. The court may issue a temporary order pursuant to this section.
The question you ask is whether you have "legal standing" to obtain visitation or custody of your grandchild. The grandparents visitation act provides that grandparents in fact do have legal standing to go to court to obtain an Order in three limited circumstances: 1.) if one of the parents dies; 2) if the parents are divorced or have never been married; 3) if the grandparents stand in loco parentis (in the shoes of the parents). From the limited facts you have presented it seems like the Grandparents Visitation Act would provide you legal standing to get into court to obtain that Order.
The second part, and often most important, is even if you do have legal standing you will bare the burden of proving that having court orderd visitation or custody is "in the best interests of the child(ren)." This is the piviotal issue in all custody matters.
I wish you luck in keeping your relationship with your grandchildren. You should immediately consult with an attorney.
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