Child Custody for Grandparents
In Pennsylvania, the Grandparent Visitation Act expanded the rights of grandparents to seek custody in certain circumstances. There are two types of custody that can be sought, legal custody and physical custody. Grandparents can seek one or both, based on their situation.
How Hard is it for Grandparents to Get Custody?
Grandparents must meet specific criteria, also known as “legal standing” to file for custody. However, even if you meet such criteria, the grandparent must still show why it is in the best interest of the child(ren) for the Court to make the award to the grandparent. This can be a difficult and highly emotional matter for all involved.
Joint Custody for Grandparents
Joint Custody, also known as Shared Custody, may be available to grandparents under certain situations. It is important to note that custody orders are specific to each case and can vary significantly based on numerous factors such as family relationships, family resources, family circumstances, parental fitness as well as the complexity of the situation, and the type of custody being sought. Our expert team is here to guide you through all aspects of custody matters and help you decide which type of custody to pursue for YOUR situation. With decades of combined experience, we are committed to helping you and your family.
How to Get Custody of Your Grandchild(ren)
A grandparent may have legal standing to file for any type of physical or legal custody under the following circumstances:
If the grandparent is “in loco parentis,” which generally means the grandparent has already assumed the obligations, rights, and responsibilities of the “parent-child relationship” but short of a legal adoption
If the grandparent is NOT “in loco parentis,” then
(1) The relationship with the child(ren) began either with the consent of a parent or under a court order;
(2) The grandparent is willing to assume responsibility for the child(ren); AND
(3) When one of the following conditions is met:
a. The child(ren) is ruled by the court to be a dependent (under 18);
b. The child(ren) is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or incapacity
c. the child(ren) has, for at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child(ren) from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents (action must be filed by the grandparents within 6 months of that removal).
The grandparent establishes by clear and convincing evidence all of the following:
1. has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child(ren).
2. has a sustained, substantial, and sincere interest in the welfare of the child(ren).
3. Neither parent has any form of care and control of the child(ren).
4. There are no dependency proceedings involving the child(ren) initiated or ongoing, and no permanent legal custody order in place.
A grandparent who is only seeking visitation (also known as partial physical custody) or supervised physical custody may have standing to file under the following situations:
(1) where the parent of the child(ren) is deceased;
(2) where the relationship with the child(ren) began either with the consent of a parent of the child(ren) or under a court order and where the parents of the child(ren):
(a) have commenced a proceeding for custody; and
(b) do not agree as to whether the grandparents should have custody; or
(3) the child(ren) has, for at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child(ren) from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents (action must be filed by the grandparents within 6 months of that removal).
In addition, the grandparent must remember that the court considers the “best interests of the child(ren)” and takes into account the child(ren)’s relationship with all of the parties when making its award. There are 16 factors that the court must consider when determining custody matters. As such, the grandparent must be fully prepared to offer evidence that partial physical custody or supervised physical custody serves the child(ren)’s best interests. This can include showing the nature and relationship of the grandparent with the grandchild(ren) prior to filings and that the custody order doesn’t interfere with the child(ren)-parent relationship.
Preparing for Taking Your Adult Child to Court
There are really no life experiences that can prepare you for taking your child to court. As hard as it may be, keeping the emotion, of any sort, to the absolute minimum is very important to your case. Having objective evidence in the form of documents, witnesses, and testimony that provide proof of your claims and the relationship with your grandchild(ren), is a crucial component to a successful case. Exhibiting personal behaviors along with your ironclad commitment to furthering and protecting healthy relationships and not creating harm is essential.
Final Thoughts on Child Custody for Grandparents
Child custody is one of the hardest and most emotional events that people face. It can be complicated and frustrating to understand where and how to file for custody. Having the best advocate and someone who truly cares about you and your family is extremely important. Put our decades of combined experience to work for you!