By Robert M. Going, Jr., Attorney
Families come in all shapes and sizes, with various combinations of adults and children who form meaningful relationships. Yet, no matter how families are comprised in any household, the well-being and safety of all individuals should always be the top priority.
That’s why, in certain situations, the state recognizes that granting grandparents partial or full custody may be the best decision for a child. This is especially true if a parent or other relative tasked to provide care cannot provide a healthy and supportive environment.
Previously, it was challenging for grandparents to intervene in family situations. However, the Pennsylvania grandparents’ rights laws now provide them with legal avenues to take action regarding their grandchildren’s welfare, safety, and happiness.
Lancaster County grandparents can exercise their legal rights in various situations if they have genuine concerns about the welfare of their grandchildren or wish to play a role in their lives. This article will share the Pennsylvania laws and allowances for grandparents.
Grandparents’ Rights in PA
According to the Joint State Government Commission, the proportion of children raised by their grandparents in the United States increased from 3.2 percent to 7.3 percent Between 1970 and 2010. While the state laws regarding grandparents’ visitation and custody rights vary significantly across America, in Pennsylvania, grandparents can petition the court for partial or supervised physical custody if it’s in the child’s best interest.
Grandparents in Lancaster County may be granted specific periods to spend time with their grandchildren under certain conditions. These conditions may include situations where each child’s parents are separated, divorced, or one or both have passed away.
However, it’s essential to understand that the court’s primary focus is on the children’s well-being when making custody arrangement decisions. The court considers various factors, including the child’s physical and emotional needs, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs, and the relationship between the child and the grandparents.
Those who want to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren have several legal options. Here are some ways that grandparents can pursue their rights.
Visitation Rights After Divorce
Grandparents may be affected by the dissolution of a marriage, particularly if they are related to the non-custodial parent. However, PA laws provide options for them to maintain relationships. with their grandchildren following a divorce. They can pursue visitation rights, which the court determines based on the children’s best interests.
Under the Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act, grandparents are also entitled to seek legal visitation if custody proceedings are ongoing between the parents. However, obtaining visitation rights as a grandparent may be a complex process because the judge has to look at various factors before granting these rights.
These factors include the nature of the existing relationship between the grandparents and the child, whether allowing visitation would harm the parent-child relationship, and whether such visitation is in the child’s best interests.
However, it’s important to note that a court may decline to hear a petition for visitation if both parents agree that contact with the grandparents would not benefit the child. The court will prioritize the parent’s decision in such cases, provided it’s not detrimental to the child’s welfare.
Nonetheless, if grandparents can demonstrate that they have a meaningful relationship with their grandchild and that visitation would benefit the child’s welfare, the court may award them visitation rights.
The opioid epidemic has had a ravaging impact on families across the United States. Grandparents often find themselves in the position of caring for their grandchildren while their parents struggle with addiction. Overcoming addiction can be long and challenging, involving multiple relapses and stays at rehabilitation clinics.
Grandparents have legal options if they suspect a child is at risk because of a parent’s substance abuse problem. They can petition for custody if they establish that the child’s safety is at risk.
Seeking custody due to a parent’s substance abuse issue may be complicated. However, with the help of an experienced custody attorney, grandparents can gain a better understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities.
This will help them navigate the legal system to obtain the best possible care, including primary custody of their grandchild. The ultimate goal is to protect the child and receive the support and care they need during difficult times.
Illness or Death
When a parent passes away, it can be an incredibly traumatic experience for both the child and their grandparents. If the surviving parent is unable or unwilling to maintain a relationship between the grandparents and the grandchild, the grandparents may be concerned about losing touch.
Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, courts recognize the importance of maintaining close familial ties. The law permits the parents of a deceased parent to request visitation or partial custody of their grandchildren. During custody hearings, the court will examine various factors, including the current relationship between the grandparents and the grandchild.
Before making any decisions, the judge will also consider the grandchild’s wishes and well-being. Ultimately, the court will only prioritize the child’s best interests and ensure that any visitation or custody arrangement serves the child’s welfare, even if it means denying grandparents’ rights.
Grandparents can also request partial custody or visitation rights if the surviving parent has a severe illness or mental condition affecting their ability to effectively care for the child. Pursuing child custody in cases of a parent’s illness or death can be emotionally draining and complicated. But with the help of an experienced Lancaster attorney, a grandparent can assess all their legal options and navigate the process effectively.
When parents are incarcerated, grandparents may need to take on a primary caregiving role for an extended period. While they can provide temporary care without legal custody, long-term situations require more formal arrangements. Grandparents can request visitation rights or even custody when one or both parents are imprisoned.
However, informal custody only applies in cases of short-term imprisonment. Grandparents can seek legal guardianship through the courts to obtain the right to make crucial decisions regarding the child’s well-being when the parents cannot. This includes decisions about education, healthcare, and other important matters that affect the child’s future.
Legal custody also gives grandparents the authority to protect the child’s best interests, even in challenging circumstances.
Going and Plank Knows Grandparents’ Rights
Grandparents can play an irreplaceable role in their grandchildren’s lives. They provide guidance, support, and love that can shape a child’s future. If you are a grandparent and are worried about your relationship with your grandchildren, seek the help of experienced family law attorneys.
Going and Plank can help evaluate your situation and determine whether you have a strong case for pursuing custody or visitation rights. Our attorneys have helped countless grandparents protect their rights and secure their grandchildren’s futures. We understand the importance of family relationships and will tirelessly safeguard yours.
Don’t go it alone. Contact the Law Offices of Going and Plank for a free consultation with our experienced family law attorneys. We will listen to your concerns and help you understand your legal options.
Want to learn more about Grandparents’ rights in PA? Check out these articles.