Child Custody: Do grandparents have rights to custody of their grandchildren in Pennsylvania?

In 2011, the law in Pennsylvania changed as to the rights of grandparents to have custody of the grandchildren. Grandparents have the right to file an action for ANY form of physical or legal of custody if the following conditions are met:

  • The relationship with the child began with the consent of a parent or by court order;
  • Grandparent is willing to assume responsibility for the child;
  • AND one of the following apply:
  • Child has been determined to be “dependent”
  • Child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect or drug and alcohol abuse or incapacity OR
  • Child has resided with Grandparent for 12 months and were removed by the parents. Action must be filed within six months after the removal of the children from the home.

If the above conditions are met, a grandparent has the right to file an action of custody, but whether or not they Grandparents welcoming grandchildrenwill be successful depends upon the facts of each case. The courts will consider the best interests of the child before awarding primary custody to a grandparent. In determining whether to give custody to a grandparent over a parent, the courts will favor the parent unless the grandparent can establish that it would be harmful to the child to remain with the parent.

In the alternative, grandparents (and even great-grandparents) have a statutory right to file an action for partial physical custody or visitation where the parent of the child is deceased or where the parent of the child was never married, but has been separated for at least 6 months or where the parent has commenced a divorce proceeding. The court must consider the following factors in determining whether to award partial physical custody to a grandparent:

  • Amount of personal contact between the grandparent and the child prior to the filing of the action;
  • Whether it would interfere with the parent-child relationship; AND
  • Whether it would be in the best interest of the child.

"Regardless of the amount of time a grandparent is seeking, the Courts believe that the best interest of the child should control a decision.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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