Grandparents Rights Attorneys: Understanding Grandparent Rights in a Custody Battle

Grandparents and grand children

Though some divorces resolve amicably, others can be bitter, difficult affairs in which adults who once loved each other fight endlessly over issues of property and child custody. If your adult child is in the midst of a divorce and there are children involved, your concern for their wellbeing and happiness is equaled by your fears of losing your connection with the grandchildren who are so precious to you.   Grandparents’ rights can easily be overlooked in the midst of legal proceedings, but the family law attorneys of Smith & Horwitz have successfully represented many grandparents in their child’s divorce, ensuring that their rights are protected. We can do the same for you.

The issue of grandparent's rights has evolved over the last several years in Pennsylvania. Up until 2013, the state accorded rights only to grandparents if they were able to prove that:

  • They had genuine care and concern for the child
  • Their relationship with the child began with the consent of the parent or the courts
  • And  that for a period of a year or more, the had assumed a parental role or responsibility for the child

This ruling required that in addition to being a member of the family, the grandparent had to be able to prove that they had been acting as a parent to the child, whether because the child’s parent had assigned them and consented to that role or because the child was considered to be at risk due to parental neglect, drug abuse or the like. However, these rules were amended significantly on September 3, 2013.

Under the modified statute, grandparents and/or great grandparents can seek partial custody or visitation:

  • If their child has died
  • If the grandchild’s parents have been separated for at least six months or have started divorce proceedings
  • If the child lived with them for at least twelve consecutive months and was then removed by the parent.

In the last case, if the parent removes the child from the grandparent or great grandparents’ home, then custody must be sought within six months of the removal.

In all custody petitions, the court’s primary concern is for the wellbeing of the child and what is in their best interest, and though the courts were previously explicitly concerned about whether grandparent custody would interfere with the child’s relationship with their parent, they are no longer required to take that issue into consideration.

The relationship that exists between a child and their grandparents, as well as with their extended family, is critically important to that child’s sense of worth and identity, and providing grandparents with rights to visitation help to maintain that connection when divorce between the parents or a breakdown in the relationship between grandparent and their adult child gets in the way. The attorneys at Smith & Horwitz have extensive experience in representing grandparents’ rights, and will passionately represent you in order to help you maintain your connection and protect your rights.

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