In a typical grandparent situation, there’s no need at all to bring in legal professionals. As you might expect in the average family dynamic, parents raise their children and, on occasion, grandparents visit the family, and vice versa. For the majority of Pennsylvanians, this is the way it’s always been and will continue to be.

Sadly, for every rule, no matter how agreeable it may be, there are exceptions. And in the case of family, there can be certain situations where, for whatever reason, grandparents are denied the right to visit or interact with a grandchild, or grandchildren. There can be any number of factors involved in this outcome; a breakdown in family relations between parents and grandparents, a change to a family’s dynamic due to death, or a break up of a family after a divorce.

In such cases, if you are a concerned grandparent and you just want to spend quality time with your grandchildren, what can you do?

Fortunately, Pennsylvanian law does have provisions for grandparents, but there are certain conditions.

Visitation & Custody

If you are a grandparent that lives in Pennsylvania and you find you are not allowed to interact with your grandchildren, you do have legal rights in this matter. One important thing to understand about this process is the terminology. Even though we’re talking about the ability of grandparents to visit with a child, Pennsylvania law interprets and refers to this as a form of “custody.”

There are seven types of custody in Pennsylvania law, but for the purposes of visitation with a grandchild, it falls under two categories.

Partial Physical Custody

This is where grandparents win the right to visit a grandchild, and are allowed to take the child on outings and other trips.

Supervised Physical Custody

This is where the custodial parent has more influence on circumstances and can determine the location and nature of interaction with the grandparents.

In securing these custody rights, grandparents essentially file a lawsuit against a parent in order to obtain these rights. It is important to note however, that Pennsylvania law affords a certain amount of legal protection to what is called an “Intact Family.” This means that is the child is still living with both parents, and there is no divorce or other mitigating circumstances, then the mutual decision of the parents is firm and Pennsylvania law will generally respect it. There are obviously certain exceptions to this such as cases of abuse, but otherwise, “Intact Families” have many legal protections and privileges under state law.

However, in the event of a spouse death, divorce, filing for divorce, or even a parental separation of six or more months, if the custodial parent denies access to a child, the law can step in. If the situation is more serious and you believe your grandchild’s welfare may be compromised, more opportunities open up.

These are complex issues however, and you should not attempt to navigate them alone. Always seek the help of an experienced Pennsylvania family attorney to ensure your rights-and those of your grandchildren-are protected.