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Grandparents: What Rights Do I Have of My Grandchildren?

The issue of grandparent rights when it comes to your grandchildren is a hotly discussed topic in recent years. In 2007 the State of Pennsylvania adopted the Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents' Visitation Act (found at 23 Pa.C.S. 5301 (2007)). Here is what you should know:

Do I have standing?

Under the Act, there are only three circumstances in which the Court may find you have standing (or the ability to request relief from the court) to request partial custody or vistiation of your grandchildren:

  1. When a birth parent is deceased.
  2. When the parents have divorced, or are seperated for longer than six (6) months or more, even if they were never married.
  3. When the child has resided with the grandparent for a period of twelve (12) months or more, AND the child was taken away from the grandparent by the parent.

Under these three scenarios, if they apply to your case, then you have standing to bring a motion in the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the child resides (the child must have resided there for the past 6 months in order for the Court to hear the case). Unfortunately, if your scenario is not one of the three mentioned above, unfortunately the Court will have no choice but to dismiss your case.

Realize the ultimate goal of the Court is to do what is in the best interest of the child. The court will examine the factors to see whether a child should be placed in partial custody or visitation with the grandparent. So, just because you fall under one of the factors above, does not mean you have an automatic approval for custody. The Court will want to hold a hearing on the matter, to examine why the child would be best suited with some term of vistation or custody with the grandparent. If you are unable to show (try to keep emotion out of it) that the child is best served with the grandparent, the Court will not be able to grant custody. The Court wants to keep a relationship with all family members, and to nurture the development of family and the child.

Additional resources provided by the author

As always, you should seek an attorney who practices family law to examine your case and see whether the facts warrant custody. While you can always file a motion pro se (on your own) with the Court, it is best to consult with an attorney before going forward to see the probability of a successful outcome for yourself and your grandchild.

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