Grandparents in Child Custody Cases

Grandparent Visitation

In Pennsylvania, grandparent visitation can be ordered where the grandparent when one of the child’s parents is deceased, where the parents are separated, or when the child had previously lived with the grandparent for a period of at least 12 consecutive months. As in any custody case, the grandparent must show that visitation is in the child’s best interests.

If none of these conditions apply, and the child is living in an intact family, the Supreme Court has held that the parents have the right to make decisions about who the child should be able to visit.

Grandparents Seeking Custody

Grandparents have the right to seek custody of a child when one of the following conditions is met

  • the child has been determined to be a dependent child (placed under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, because the parent is unable to provide proper care)
  • the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
  • 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, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

How to Seek Custody or Visitation

In most cases, the Grandparent will need to file a Custody Complaint (or a Petition to Intervene), in the County where the child has been residing. In most cases, they will seek the assistance of a Child Custody Attorney to do so.

If the child is under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, then the case will be decided in that forum, rather than as a custody case; the Grandparent should talk to the child’s Children and Youth Services case worker about the case.

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