Can Grandparents Seek Custody or Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania?
The maze of family law can be a confusing and emotional ordeal, especially when it involves the welfare of grandchildren. Often, grandparents find themselves asking the critical question: Can we legally seek custody or visitation rights for our grandchildren in Pennsylvania?
The law in Pennsylvania gives grandparents the right to seek custody or visitation of their grandchildren in certain circumstances. However, the court will only grant these rights if it finds that it is in the best interests of the child.
Understanding the Basics of Pennsylvania Divorce Law
In Pennsylvania, the law acknowledges the importance of maintaining the grandparent-grandchild relationship, especially in cases where the child’s wellbeing is a concern.
The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23, Chapter 53, provides the legal guidelines surrounding child custody matters, including the rights of grandparents. Understanding these laws is the first step toward successfully petitioning for custody or visitation.
When Can Grandparents Seek Custody?
Grandparents can file for custody under certain circumstances, generally falling under one of these scenarios:
Parental Death or Incapacity: If one or both parents are deceased or incapacitated, the grandparent can apply for custody.
Family Disintegration: If the parents have been separated for six months or more, or if a divorce has been filed, grandparents may be eligible to petition for custody.
Child’s Welfare: If it is in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of the grandparent rather than the parent, the court may consider awarding custody to the grandparent. Such as the following…
- If the child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months.
- If the grandparent has a relationship with the child that was encouraged by one of the child’s parents or a result of a court order.
- If the grandparent is willing to assume custody of the child and the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child.
It is important to note that the court’s primary concern is the best interest of the child. Factors such as emotional ties, the ability to provide a stable home, and the child’s adjustment to their current living situation will all be considered.
What About Visitation Rights?
Visitation rights are another area where grandparents have some legal standing. According to Pennsylvania law, grandparents can seek visitation rights if:
- A parent of the child is deceased.
- The parents of the child have been separated for six months or more, or a divorce has been filed.
- It is in the best interest of the child to maintain a relationship with their grandparent.
However, achieving visitation rights often requires proving that the relationship has a beneficial impact on the child and that it would harm the child’s emotional or physical well-being to sever that relationship.
Factors the Court Consider When Granting Grandparent Visitation Rights
The court will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to grant grandparent visitation rights. These factors include:
- The child’s age and needs.
- The relationship between the grandparent and the child.
- The wishes of the child’s parents.
- The child’s best interests.
The court will also consider whether the grandparent has a history of abuse or neglect. If the grandparent has a history of abuse or neglect, the court is less likely to grant visitation rights.
Procedural Steps Involved
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to seek custody or visitation rights for your grandchildren, the procedural steps typically involve:
- Filing a petition in the appropriate Pennsylvania court.
- Attending a preliminary hearing or conference.
- Undergoing an evaluation by a court-appointed mediator or psychological expert to assess the best interests of the child.
- Attending a full hearing where both parties present evidence and arguments.
- Waiting for a judicial determination based on the facts presented and the best interests of the child.
How Engle Kauffman and VanHorn Can Help
Navigating the complexities of Pennsylvania divorce law can be overwhelming, especially when the emotional stakes are high. At Engle Kauffman and VanHorn, our experienced divorce lawyers in PA have the know-how and dedication to guide you through every step of this challenging process.
The question of whether grandparents can seek custody or visitation rights is a critical issue for many families in Pennsylvania. The law does provide specific pathways for grandparents to assert their rights, but it’s essential to be well-informed and adequately represented.
Don’t let the intricacies of PA divorce law prevent you from seeking what’s best for your grandchildren. If you are facing this challenging scenario, reach out to Engle Kauffman and VanHorn. Our Pennsylvania divorce attorneys are committed to ensuring the well-being of your family.
Take action today for a better tomorrow. Contact us to schedule a consultation.