There are many important considerations when a marriage dissolves and a couple decides to get divorced. Among them is property division among the spouses, alimony (if necessary), as well as child support and custody if a couple has children.
In addition to these topics, grandparents often form strong bonds with their grandchildren and would be devastated if they could not spend time with them as they age. Luckily, Pennsylvania has statutes that allow grandparents to petition for partial (sometimes full) custody or visitation rights under certain circumstances.
Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act
According to the Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act, a grandparent can file for custody or visitation in three circumstances:
- Death of birth parent(s)
- Upon divorce of the parents or after they have been separated for six months or more
- When a child has resided with a grandparent for 12 months or more before being returned to a parent
Grandparents wishing to obtain partial or full custody of a child should speak with a qualified grandparents’ rights attorney to discuss their options, as well as how to demonstrate to a court that their request is in the best interests of the child.
Best Interests of the Child
Courts use a “best interests of the child” guideline when determining whether to grant custody or visitation rights to grandparents and consider the following factors, among others:
- Emotional and physical health of a child, their safety, as well as their welfare
- The opinion of the child (assuming they have the mental capacity to formulate their own decision)
- Length and history of the grandparent-grandchild relationship
- Evidence of neglect or abuse by parents or another legal guardian
- A grandparent’s ability to meet the needs of the child
Of course, each case has its own unique circumstances that must be addressed before a court will grant partial or full custody to a grandparent or allow them visitation rights. Those seeking help or having questions about grandparent's visitation rights should speak with a qualified family law attorney who has experience helping grandparents maintain their valuable relationships with their grandchildren.