To participate in custody or dependency proceedings in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, one must have what is known as standing. Standing is the term used to acknowledge a legal basis and right for an individual or individuals to sue in a court of law. For example, a biological mother always has standing to sue a biological father for custody. Her legal basis and right comes from her standing as a parent.
As a grandparent, you do not automatically have standing to sue for custody. If you would like to sue for custody as a grandparent, you must establish three factors laid out in 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5324(3). First the grandparent may file for custody if they were given the child from a biological parent with that parent’s consent or there ws a court order in place causing this to occur, second the grandparent must be either have assumed or be willing to assume responsibility for the child, and third the child must have either been considered dependent by a court of law, be in a high risk living situation due to parental neglect, abuse, etc., or the child has been living exclusively with the grandparent for the past 12 months.
If these factors can be established, a grandparent will have standing to sue for custody of their grandchild.
Standing in terms of dependency also means that a grandparent must be a party to the action in order to participate. A grandparent may participate if they are the individual who provides the primary care for the child. Dependency actions tend to be more lenient in who the court will allow to speak and provide testimony. Many times, a judge will want to hear from whoever is involved in the child’s everyday life, regardless of who is actually the primary caregiver.