Protecting Your Family With Passion, Experience And Diligence

When do Pennsylvania grandparents have custody / visitation rights?

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2023 | Grandparents' Rights

Many – if not most – adults have a strong desire to maintain a relationship with the members of their family who are minors. Yet, only a small portion of the adults who care about any individual child have legal rights related to custody and visitation based on their legal or biological connection to them.

Under Pennsylvania state law, parents typically have the strongest rights to spend time with their children and/or have a say in their upbringing. Grandparents are in the very small group of individuals other than parents who may have a legal right to protect their relationship with a child, legally. Yet, even then, those rights are only available under specific circumstances. Pennsylvania grandparents may have the right to seek custody or ask for visitation with their grandchildren, for example, in the following scenarios.

When there is a disruption to the family unit

In a scenario in which the parents of a child remain married but a grandparent has a falling out with the parents, they would have very few, if any, legal protections. Pennsylvania family law statutes only recognize the rights of grandparents in situations involving some kind of major disruption to the primary family unit.

The divorce or separation of the child’s parents could be a reason for a grandparent to ask for visitation if they can no longer spend time with their grandchild. The incarceration of a parent with primary custody or the state’s decision to terminate their parental rights could also allow a grandparent to ask for visitation or even custody.

When their involvement is what’s best for the children

One factor influences every custody and visitation determination made by Pennsylvania family law judges. They always need to think about what would be in the best interests of the children. When it comes to grandparent visitation, judges may consider a visitation order to be in the best interest of the children when they have an unstable family situation or a strong pre-existing relationship with the grandparents. In situations where parents have lost custody, allowing grandparents to seek custody may be better for the children than placing them in foster care.

Generally, grandparents need to establish that they have a pre-existing relationship with their grandchildren and that securing visitation or custody rights would be beneficial for the children before they’ll be able to secure legal rights to see them or to serve as their guardians. Understanding the rules that apply in complicated family situations where grandparents may need to formalize their rights to serve their grandchildren in specific ways may help older adults preserve the relationship that they have with their grandchildren and to potentially help them protect minors from difficult family circumstances.