Are you a proud grandparent? Do you wish to have custody rights with your grandchild or grandchildren? Depending on your factual circumstances, you may be able to request custodial time be ordered by the court. Unfortunately, when grandparents call my office, it is often because there has been a dispute between family members, and they have been unable to visit or speak with their grandchildren. 

These cases can be very difficult for all involved.  It is important to note that the right to raise one’s own child is constitutionally protected which can create legal barriers to grandparent’s custodial rights to their grandchildren.  However, there may be limited circumstances wherein a grandparent may infringe upon that right as identified by our state legislature.

I will first cover situations wherein a grandparent will have standing to seek partial custodial time or supervised custodial time. These filings typically concern grandchildren that are not at risk of neglect or abuse. Pursuant to PA.R.C.P. Rule 5325, Grandparents may file an action under this chapter for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in the following situations: (1)  where the parent of the child is deceased, or (2) where the relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order and where the parents of the child (i) have commenced a proceeding for custody; and (ii) do not agree as to whether the grandparents or great-grandparents should have custody under this section.  In addition, in the event that the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, an action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

However, certain factual circumstances may warrant a more intrusive filing for primary and/or sole physical custody of the minor child(ren). These filings typically concern grandchildren that are at risk of substantial neglect and/or abuse as a  result of their parents inability to provide proper care and attention. Pursuant to PA.R.C.P. Rule 5324, a grandparent of the child, (i)  whose relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order; (ii)  who assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and (iii)  when one of the following conditions is met: (A)  the child has been determined to be a dependent child or (B)  the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity. 

In the end, if you are a grandparent seeking visitation rights of your grandchild, it is important that you hire an experienced family lawyer to assist in the process. Please do not hesitate to contact my office today for a free initial consultation so that we may begin to analyze your grandparents’ rights in Pennsylvania to determine the appropriate course of action.