Grandparents are an intricate part of many familial units, and in situations of divorce, custody, and neglect, their rights have a special protection under Pennsylvania law, in ways that are quite different from many other states. They are specifically noted to be eligible for ‘partial physical custody’ and ‘supervised physical custody’ which are implemented in different situations. Here’s what you need to know about the rights of grandparents.

Establishing Standing: Unlike issues of paternity, one of the most important situations for a grandparent to back up their request for access to their minor grandchildren is establishing the amount of time that they spent with the grandchild prior to filing for visitation. These instances come up in cases where the parents are divorced or have been separated for 6 months, or if the parent who is the child of the grandparent has passed away. In this and all other laws involving the rights of the minor child’s grandparents, great-grandparents are afforded equal rights.

Former Residency: Grandparents gain additional rights if the minor child had previously resided with them for at least a year until the child was removed by their parents. In these instances, they may be able to achieve partial physical custody or supervised physical custody. The court would consider whether the visitation is in the best interests of the child, or if it would interfere with the progression of the relationship between parent and child, such as in instances when the parent has a negative relationship with the grandparents.

Supreme Court Precedent: The Supreme Court case Troxel v. Granville ruled that parents have the right to make decisions in the best interests of their children, a right that supercedes the rights of most others. This decision has challenged the PA state statutes, and those in many other states, but PA law has stood throughout several other controversial cases. In 2006, the case of Hiller v. Fausey, a father was attempting to deny contact between his 11 year old son and his maternal grandmother, following the boy’s mother’s death.

Because PA state law specifically allows for visitation in the case of the parent’s death, and because the young boy in this case had been close with his grandmother during his mother’s illness, the grandmothers’ visitation rights were upheld. Throughout these and most laws regarding child custody and visitation, PA state law attempts to provide for the best interest of the child’s growth and development whenever possible.

The Sebald, Hackwelder, & Knox Solution: At Sebald, Hackwelder, & Knox, we understand the emotional difficulties during child custody procedures, as in the many areas of family law in which we practice. We are dedicated to giving you the best representation in court, and to protect the best interests of your child. Call us at (814) 833-1987 today for a free consultation about our extensive experience and how we can make our skills work for you. We look forward to speaking with you soon and making sure you find the best solution for your family.