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Spotlight Issue: Custody rights of grandparents in Pennsylvania

What custody rights do grandparents have in Pennsylvania? PA law sets forth the criteria to determine whether a grandparent can petition the court for any type of physical custody of a child (including full custody):

- The grandparent's relationship with the child must have started with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order;
- The grandparent must be willing to assume responsibility for the child; and
- One of the following conditions must be met:

1- the child is declared dependent by the courts
2- the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
3- the child has lived with the grandparent for a period of at least 12 consecutive months and is then removed from the home by the parents - the action must be filed within six months of the child's removal

If a grandparent in Pennsylvania is requesting only partial physical custody or supervised physical custody then the grandparent must show one of the following situations exists:

- If a parent of the child is deceased then a parent or grandparent of the deceased parent may file for custody
- The parents have commenced and continued divorce proceedings
- The child has lived with the grandparent for a period of at least 12 consecutive months and is then removed from the home by the parents - the action must be filed within six months of the child's removal

**Note - Pennsylvania previously allowed grandparents to seek partial physical custody or supervised physical custody where the parents of the child were separated for 6 months, but the Pennsylvania Superior Court recently ruled in D.P. v. G.J.P. that this portion of the statute to be unconstitutional.

As in all custody cases, the courts use a "best interest of the child" standard to determine whether or not a grandparent should be granted custody rights of a child.

If you are a grandparent seeking custody or your child's grandparent has filed a custody action against you, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney on this lesser-known area of law. Contact our Berks County custody attorneys today at 610-372-5128 or email us at [email protected]

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