How Visitation Works
If parents agree to visitation by grandparents, there is no need to seek court approval; however, divorce and separation can often result in distancing a grandparent from their grandchildren.
A grandparent seeking visitation rights in family court will need to prove that this visitation is in the best interest of the child. Some of the factors that the court will consider include:
- The existing relationship between the grandparents and grandchildren
- The child's physical, emotional, and mental health
- The impact that the visitation would have on the child’s growth and development
- The impact the visitation would have on the child’s relationship with their parents
- In some cases, the wishes of the child
Visitation rights for grandparents with regards to grandchildren who have been adopted by someone outside of the family are generally terminated upon adoption. Even when a stepparent adopts a child, a court might not allow visitation by a grandparent if that relationship is detrimental to the child’s relationship with their new legal, adoptive parent.
How Custody Works
The court might award custody to a grandparent if the child is being neglected or abused by their parents. The court will consider this option if:
- The grandparent has a relationship with the child that was encouraged by the parents or by a court order
- The grandparent has assumed custody of the child or is willing to do so
- The child is either a dependent under the age of 18, or is at great risk of neglect, abuse, drugs or alcohol use by parents, or has lived with their grandparents for 12 consecutive months.
Meeting these requirements still does not ensure that the court will award custody to a grandparent. To protect the best interests of the child, the court will also consider the child’s contact with the grandparents prior to filing for custody, potential interference with a parent-child relationship, and the emotional, physical, educational, and special needs of the child.
If the child has been residing with a grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months, excluding brief and temporary absences, and parents remove the child from the grandparent’s home, the grandparent must petition the court for custody within six months of the removal.
Explore Your Rights with a
Grandparents’ Rights Attorney
in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Grandparents can be such a positive influence for their grandchildren while providing much-needed support for their parents. Most grandparents wish to have a close relationship with their grandchildren, even if that wish isn’t always supported by the child’s parents. By law, if custody is argued between a parent and a third party, which includes grandparents, the presumption of custody is typically awarded to the parent. While the wishes of parents take precedence, that does not always mean there isn’t room for grandparents.
Whether talking to the parents of your grandchild has failed, you believe your grandchildren live in a dangerous environment, or you simply want to formalize your custodial rights for grandchildren who live with you, it is imperative that you seek the help of an experienced family law attorney so that you can explore your rights under Pennsylvania law.