Posted in: Grandparent Visitation
With increases in life expectancy, older Americans are often able to enjoy playing a role in the lives of their grandchildren. In the event that a grandparent is unable to agree on a visitation arrangement with the parent(s) of the child, the grandparent can, in limited circumstances, ask a court to order visitation. Despite the positive influences that grandparents can have, however, the law is reluctant to interfere with a parent’s decision with respect to allowing or denying grandparent visitation.
In Pennsylvania, the Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act (“Act”) provides grandparents (and great-grandparents) with the ability to seek visitation over minor grandchildren in certain situations. It is important to note, however, that grandparents cannot obtain court-ordered visitation, except in limited circumstances, when both of the child’s parents are alive, living together and refuse to permit visitation.
The basic and most important consideration underlying visitation rights revolves around a court’s conclusion as to what is in the “best interests of the child.”
The Act requires courts to examine a number of factors in making the critical determination as to what custody or visitation arrangement is in the best interests of a child. They must consider, among other factors, the following:
Although all of these factors are important, a court gives heightened weight to any factors that affect the safety of the child.
The Act breaks down the term “visitation” into two possible forms that greatly affect a grandparent’s rights with respect to a child:
Neither of these terms allows a grandparent to have complete custody of a child, such as the ability to have the child live with a grandparent full-time or the ability to make important decisions regarding education, religion and other matters.
For grandparents that have not already assumed a parental role over of a child, the Act permits grandparents willing to assume responsibility over a grandchild to seek full custody over a child as long as they already have a relationship with the grandchild through the consent of at least one of the child’s parents. In addition, the grandchild must either
In addition, grandparents can seek partial or supervised physical custody when 1) at least one of the child’s parents is deceased; 2) the parents have been separated or divorced for at least six months; or 3) the child has lived with the grandparent for at least twelve consecutive months and the child has been removed from the home by the child’s parent(s).
In determining whether to award partial or supervised physical custody to a grandparent or great-grandparent, courts consider:
Grandparents seeking to obtain visitation or custody of grandchildren can have an uphill battle, which is why it is important to obtain competent legal representation in such matters.
For general information concerning grandparents’ rights, consider visiting the following website: