Pennsylvania Grandparent Visitation and Custody Rights Guidelines

Grandparent Visitation and Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

Grandparents rights in Pennsylvania are governed by the Child Custody Act. Pennsylvania’s laws have changed since 2011.  Under the old custody law, the term “visitation” referred to the right to visit a child and did not include the right to remove the child from the custody parent’s control. The new custody statute does away with the term “visitation” term and instead uses a variety of other to describe periods of physical custody: primary physical custody, partial physical custody, shared physical custody, sole physical custody, and supervised physical custody. Depending on the circumstances, a grandparent can pursue primary or sole physical or legal custody  Even more than before, Grandparents are eligible for “partial physical custody” and “supervised physical custody” (visitation).

Before filing for either type of custody/visitation, grandparents must first establish “standing.”  Under the PA’s former law, grandparents had the right or “standing” to petition for custody of their grandchildren if a parent was deceased, parents were divorced, or a grandchild had resided with the grandparents for 12 months or more.

Under Pennsylvania’s new law, “standing” for grandparents materializes when (a) a parent is deceased; (b) a grandchild has resided with the grandparent for 12 months or more (if filed within 6 months of living with the grandparent); or (c)the parents are simply separated for a period of 6 months or more (not actually divorced).

Within PA Section 5328, the courts now have several factors to deliberate when awarding custody:

5328.  Factors to consider when awarding custody.

(a)  Factors.

In ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

(1)     Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.

(2)     The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.

(3)     The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.

(4)     The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.

(5)     The availability of extended family.

(6)     The child’s sibling relationships.

(7)      The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.

(8)     The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.

(9)     Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.

(10)  Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.

(11)    The proximity of the residences of the parties.

(12)     Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.

(13)  The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.

(14)  The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.

(15)  The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.

(16)    Any other relevant factor.

The Pennsylvania court is also instructed to consider the amount of personal contact that took place before the application. Another factor depends upon whether the grandchild resided with the grandparent for twelve months or more and/or was removed from the grandparent’s home by parents.  The court may award partial physical custody or supervised physical custody. The court must consider whether visitation is in the child’s best interest and whether visitation would interfere with the parent-child relationship, and there is a time limitation of filing of custody suits by grandparents – within six months from removal from the grandparents’ home. Finally,. upon petition, a PA court may modify a custody order to serve the best interest of the child.

Great-grandparents have the same rights as grandparents, and adoption terminates visitation rights unless the adopting party is a stepparent, grandparent or great-grandparent.  Furthermore, under the new law, the Court does award custody or visitation award based upon gender preference.

Note:  The foregoing information is provided as general family law

guidelines in Pennsylvania and should not be considered as legal advice specific to your case.  After reviewing the above material, you will

be presented with the opportunity to submit more details

specific to your case directly to

About The Children

Submitted by Linda O’Marie, Paralegal

Contact us at AboutTheChildren.org

or Call 1 (800) 787 4981

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Posted in Pennsylvania Guidelines

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