GRANDPARENTS’ RIGHTS ATTORNEY IN PITTSBURGH, PA
In the eyes of the court, the relationship between parents and their children is paramount. The best interest of any child, by many measures, is served by a quality relationship with their parents. Still, according to the latest statistics, more than 2.5 million grandparents in the United States are raising over 13 million children. These statistics indicate that grandparents have clear, indisputable rights when it comes to both visitation and custody of their grandchildren.
While there is no federal law governing visitation and custody rights for grandparents, the U.S. Supreme Court case, Troxel v. Granville, upheld broad grandparent visitation rights and determined that those rights should not interfere with parental rights.
Similarly, Pennsylvania law provides for some rights for grandparent visitation and custody as long as they do not supersede the rights of parents to make choices for their children. In family law, the best interest of the child is the prevailing factor.
Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C. has represented family law clients in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area for more than 15 years. Many of those clients have been grandparents exploring their rights under the law.
UNDERSTANDING GRANDPARENTS’ RIGHTS
Under the constitutionally tried-and-tested Pennsylvania Grandparents Visitation Act, a grandparent can seek visitation or partial custody rights if the child’s family unit is broken. This includes when one or both parents have died, the parents have been separated for six months or longer or have filed for divorce or separation, or the child has lived with the grandparent for 12 months or more.
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.
GRANDPARENTS’ RIGHTS ATTORNEY SERVING PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA
At my firm, Marc V. Taiani, Esquire and Allegheny Attorneys at Law, P.C., I represent grandparents throughout Pittsburgh, Fox Chapel, Penn Hills, Aspinwall, Oakmont Borough, and the Shaler, Ross, O’Hara, and Indiana Townships in Pennsylvania. My goal is to help anyone who wishes to exercise their rights as a grandparent to maintain healthy relationships with their grandchildren.
If you are a grandparent with questions about visitation and custody rights, please call my office to schedule a consultation. We can discuss the details of your situation and outline a plan to help you move toward a resolution.