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Pennsylvania grandparents can seek child custody

If you ask enough questions about family law, you start to get the message very quickly. The answer is almost always that the best interest of a child involved will come first.

And what about the rights of grandparents in Pennsylvania? You guessed it. First, it depends on what's best for the child.

The child's best interest in the statutes

Pennsylvania law provides courts with extensive guidance in a section of the statutes called "Factors to consider when awarding custody."

It requires (not suggests) that the court "shall" determine the best interest of the child by "considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child."

The text even includes a long but not complete list of factors that might affect the child's safety, including "The availability of extended family."

Are you eligible to even ask?

Due to a change in the law a little more than a year ago, grandparents and anyone else can ask to be granted custody of a child in court if they can prove each of the following facts:

  • They're willing to assume (or already have) responsibility for the child.
  • They have a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child.
  • Neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.

These facts don't get you custody, of course, but only make you eligible to ask (that is, they mean you have "standing").

Another provision also allows grandparents or great grandparents to at least seek custody if they can establish any one of the following three conditions:

  • The child's parent is deceased.
  • The parents are already in court vying for custody. At least one of the parents must want you to have custody.
  • The child has lived with you for a solid year or more but has now been taken from you by the parents.

Pennsylvania therefore has various scenarios in which grandparents, great grandparents and in some cases anyone else can ask for custody. But, again, the court will apply very strict rules and careful judgment about what's truly in the child's best interest.

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