When many people think about a family child custody dispute they think of two parents. It is, however, becoming more common to have a custody and child visitation dispute that involves three generations: the minor child at the center, the child’s parent and the child’s grandparent. Unfortunately, in many of these cases there may also be a component of chronic and untreated alcohol abuse and drug abuse that has lead to the child needing care that his or her natural parent is unable or unwilling to provide.
At the Law Office & Mediation Services of Elissa C. Goldberg, we work to secure and protect the relationship between the generations. Our Bucks County grandparents’ rights attorney Elissa C. Goldberg handles grandparent custody cases for clients in Doylestown, Montgomery County and the Philly metro area.
Pennsylvania Grandparents’ Partial Physical Custody and Visitation
Grandparent Visitation Statutes are constitutional and are a means to protect the emotional well-being of children who have been estranged from their grandparents.
Generally, Pennsylvania grandparents can ask a judge to give them partial custody or visitation of their minor grandchildren if they meet certain factors:
- One or both parents are deceased
- The parents have never married, are married but separated for more than six months, or have filed for divorce; or
- The grandchildren have resided with the grandparents for more than 12 months and then were removed from the home
Under Pennsylvania law, grandparents also have the right to seek custody rights of their minor grandchildren if they were acting in loco parentis to the grandchildren.
Pennsylvania Grandparent Primary Custody Law
While all grandparents in Pennsylvania have the right to sue for primary custody of their minor grandchildren, if the biological parents object, it is a very difficult case. A judge can only award primary custody to the grandparents in cases where evidence can prove that the relationship with the grandchildren began with the consent of the parent or pursuant to an order of court, and that the grandparents assumed responsibility for the grandchildren. After those two issues are proven, the grandparents must be able to prove one of the following:
- The child resided with the grandparents for at least 12 months where the grandparents acted like the grandchildren’s parents (generally requires that the parent did not reside in the house);
- The grandchildren have been declared dependent due to parental abuse or neglect; or
- The grandparents believe that the grandchildren are substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol issues.
Even if the above requirements are met, the trial court judge must still determine what is in the children’s best interests.
Contact a Bucks County Grandparents’ rights Lawyer
Considering the legal hurdles, it is not an easy task for grandparents to be awarded primary physical custody if the biological parents will not agree to an award of custody to the grandparent. Our family law attorney is a tough litigator as well as a certified mediator who can help find solutions even in cases where it seems difficult.
Contact our Doylestown grandparents visitation law firm or call office at 215-345-5259 to schedule a free consultation today.