Pennsylvania families often face challenging times throughout their lives, and one of the most challenging is certainly when a divorce has occurred and custody issues have arisen. Parents often let their emotions get the better of them in these situations and instead of trying to keep the best interests of children in mind, arguments can easily ensue.
One aspect of custody and visitation is the question of what rights a grandparent has when it comes to the child. Grandparent's custody rights are often misunderstood, and taking a closer look at them is important for anyone in a situation where their grandchildren are difficult to visit with.
Pennsylvania law has very specific rules in place for grandparent's custody rights, and for those who are seeking actual custody of a child or even trying to enforce visitation, one of three situations must exist. These are:
- The parents must have been separated for a minimum of six months, or are divorced.
- The child must have previously lived with the grandparent for a minimum of one year.
- At least one parent is deceased.
It's important to understand that while one or more of these factors may be present in your situation, this doesn't automatically guarantee that you'll be given custody as a grandparent. This is because courts will focus on what is in the child's best interests - with a special focus on persevering the relationship between the parent and child.
This means that grandparents looking to seek full or partial custody must show the courts that the child is being harmed in some way by a lack of contact with them. It must be shown that the parent's decision to deny visitation with the child is not in the best interests of the child in question.
One option that can be a good first step is mediation, and while this is commonly thought of as a step in a divorce, talking to parents is something that can often help grandparents reach the point where they can assert some of their rights. A divorce attorney may be able to discuss the situation and help mediate some form of visitation.
The bottom line is that under Pennsylvania law, grandparents do have some rights when it comes to visitation and even custody. However, the path to court ordered custody or visitation is a long, difficult one. If you're thinking of pursuing such a path, you'll need to enlist a good family law attorney in order to have the best chance of success.