Various scenarios exist where a child has been living with his or her grandparents for a significant period of time, and often the Pittsburgh Grandparents seek some sort of legal rights to the child. Initially, Grandparents were not permitted to have family law rights to their grandchildren based on the United States Supreme Court case of Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57 (2000). In Troxel, Grandparents of a minor child petitioned for visitation rights of their grandchild. The Supreme Court ruled against the Grandparents seeking visitation rights under the Washington State statute, determining that allowing Grandparents these rights would violate the Mother’s right to make decisions with regard to the “care, custody, and control” of her children. However, the Court left open the fact that other state’s nonparent visitation statutes may not violate the Constitution in the same way this particular Washington State statute did.
There are numerous different scenarios where a Pittsburgh grandparent will have standing to seek rights with regard to their grandchildren:
- If the grandchildren have resided with the Grandparents for more than 12 months and then were removed from the home;
- If either of the child’s or children’s parents are deceased;
- If the parents have never married, are married but separated for more than six months, or are divorced.
The PA statute on grandparents’ rights also states that Grandparents can petition (and have adequate legal standing) for physical and legal custody of a grandchild. The court, as is the standard in Pennsylvania custody cases, determines what is in the best interest of the child in making this determination. The grandparent, however, has to have a significant relationship with the child.
Specifically, in order to petition for physical and legal custody of their grandchild in Pennsylvania, a grandparent has to possess “genuine care and concern for the child,” have a relationship with the child that began with the consent of a parent of the child or through court order, and who has assumed the role of the child’s parent for 12 months. This means that a significant relationship existed, and the child’s grandparent essentially was their parent, “providing for the physical, emotional and social needs of the child.” 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 5313(b)(3).
If you have questions about grandparents’ rights in Pennsylvania, contact us at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates today. Our Pittsburgh family lawyers are here for you and are happy to provide you with representation during your case.