Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

Changes in Pennsylvania's Grandparent Custody Rights

As Pittsburgh Custody Lawyers, it is part of our job to remain up-to-date to evolving laws that impact our client's custody rights. In Pennsylvania, many grandparents are afforded the right by law to file for partial or supervised physical custody of their grandchildren. Recently, the statute providing these rights, 23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5325, was considered and evaluated by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

23 Pa. C.S.A. Section 5325 previously granted standing to for grandparents to file for partial or supervised physical custody of their grandchildren when: (1) if either of the child's or children's parents are deceased; (2) if the parents have been separated for at least six months or have commenced divorce proceedings; or (3) the grandchildren have resided with the grandparents for more than 12 months and then were removed from the home. This statute has been the topic of much debate since its inception in 2011, and has been expanded to provide additional standing to grandparents of parents who were never married.

Recently, a trial court in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, denied standing to grandparents who were filing under Section 2 when the parents have been separated for at least six months. D.P. v. G.J.P. concerned a custody complaint filed by grandparents of a child whose parents were both living, but had been separated for a period exceeding six months. The Westmoreland County Court in D.P. v. G.J.P. held that while compelling interest to interfere with a parents' rights and grant partial custody rights to grandparents may exist when one parent of a child is deceased, the trial court held that a compelling interest did not exist sufficient to grant partial custody rights over the objection of two living parents.

At the conclusion of this case at the trial level in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered the implications of this statute and ultimately agreed with the trial court that a compelling interest did not exist in cases similar to D.P. The Supreme Court severed the first half of paragraph (2) from the rest of the statute. As such, grandparents no longer have standing in Pennsylvania to file for partial or supervised physical custody solely on the basis that parents have been separated for a period of six months.

This change in the statute has major implications for many grandparents who have partial physical custody of their grandchildren in Pennsylvania. If you are a Grandparent who has is or is seeking custody of your grandchild, call our Pennsylvania Custody lawyers today to discuss how this change could affect your rights.

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