Many grandparents are unaware that, in certain circumstances, they may file for visitation or even partial physical custody of their grandchild. The Pennsylvania legislature recently passed a bill that expanded grandparents rights involving partial physical custody of their grandchild. In D.P. v. G.J.P., the Pennsylvania Supreme Court narrowed grandparent custody laws, holding that grandparents could not seek custody just because the parents of the minor child had been separated for at least six months. The Court reasoned that such a provision did not survive strict scrutiny and therefore violated the fundamental rights of the parents to raise their child as they see fit.
The current law, as written, would permit a grandparent standing to seek custody of a minor child when a custody action has already been initiated by either parent. This protects the parents’ right to raise their child as they see fit without court interference, except in cases where they have already invited the court into their family affairs. Additionally, grandparents can file a custody action in cases where the grandchild resided with the grandparent for at least 12 months or if the parent of the minor child involved, has died.
Having the ability to file a complaint does not automatically award visitation or custody to the grandparents. In deciding whether to award partial physical custody or supervised physical custody, the court will consider these three separate factors:
(1) The level of contact between the grandparents and the child
(2) Whether visitation or physical custody would interfere with any parent-child relationship
(3) Whether granting physical custody is in the best interest of the minor child.
Custody cases involving grandparents’ rights need to be presented in a way that shows the court that the grandparents have the best interest of the child in mind. Hiring an experienced family law attorney, who understands custody matters, can help to develop persuasive arguments on the grandparent’s behalf.
Dutko Law for Family Law Cases
At Dutko Law, we are prepared to handle complex child custody cases. If you are a grandparent that would like to be considered for physical custody of your grandchild, we an experienced legal representative to help you. Contact Dutko Law today to schedule a consultation.