BIG Changes to Standing for Custody in PA

Big changes are happening right now in PA custody law. On September 6, 2017, Senate Bill No. 844 was introduced, Amending Title 23 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. The Bill sets out to revise § 5324 & § 5325, which pertain to standing to file for custody.

In case you missed our 2-part blog on the changes relating specifically to grandparent standing, Part I introduces the 2015 landmark case of Ponkov. Ponko and how its decision has impacted grandparent standing in Pennsylvania.

Part II discussed the upcoming changes to 23 Pa.C.S.A § 5325(2), the section of the custody statute pertaining to grandparent standing for any form of physical custody or legal custody.

In this blog, we will discuss the upcoming changes to 23 Pa.C.S.A § 5324, the section of the custody statute pertaining to standing for any form of physical custody or legal custody. § 5324 currently reads:

(A) The following individuals may file an action under this chapter for any form of physical custody or legal custody:

(1) A parent of the child.

(2) A person who stands in loco parentis to the child.

(3) A grandparent of the child who is not in loco parentis to the child:

(i) whose relationship began with the child either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order;

(ii) who assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and

(iii) when one of the following conditions is met:

(A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters);

(B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or

(C) the has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

Senate Bill No. 844 had augmented the statute with the following subsections:

(4) Except as set forth in subsection (b), if no biological or adoptive parent of a child has custody of the child, an individual who establishes by clear and convincing evidence that the individual:

(i) assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and

(ii) has a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child, which may be demonstrated by factors involving the nature, quality, extent and length of involvement by the individual in the child's life, including but not limited to:

(A) The financial support or assistance paid by the individual for the benefit of the child; and

(B) Whether the individual has previously stood in loco parentis to the child.

(B) Subsection (A)(4) does not apply to any of the following:

(1) Intervention in a dependency proceeding.

(2) An action by a party who has participated in a dependency proceeding relating to the child.

(3) A challenge to the placement of the child in:

(I) Foster Care; or

(II) Kinship Care.

(4) A challenge to an order of permanent legal custody under 42 Pa.C.S. § 6351 (F.1) (3) or (4) (relating to disposition of dependent child).

This amendment will greatly expand the circumstances under which an individual may be granted standing to seek custody.  Contact us today to speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss standing in your case!

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