Our Pittsburgh child custody lawyers know that the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren is a very important and beneficial one for both sides, and accordingly enjoys a special position in the law and before the courts. The PA legislature in 2011 extended special standing privileges to grandparents suing for custody. Grandparents, even those who do not stand in loco parentis to their grandchildren (meaning that they do not have grandchildren living with them and are acting functionally as parents) are able to petition in family court for custody of their grandchildren.
That is not to say that they have the same legal rights as parents. Grandparents, unlike parents, must petition the court for standing to sue for any kind of physical or legal custody. (Parents have automatic standing.) In order for the Court to grant standing, certain statutory requirements must be met. These include:
•1. The relationship with the child began with the consent of the parents or by court order. (This is because a parent generally has the fundamental right to determine who their children should have relationships with. If a parent never allowed their child to see the grandparents, then a court will generally not create a relationship.)
•2. The grandparent will assume, or is willing to assume, responsibility for the child.
•3. One of the following conditions is met: the child is adjudicated dependent for legal purposes, the child is at risk from parental neglect, incapacity, or drug/alcohol abuse, or the child resided with the grandparents for a consecutive 12 month period and was removed from their home by the children’s parents. In the case of removal by the parents, the petition must be filed within 6 months of the removal from the home.
Additionally, grandparents may petition the court to file only for partial physical custody or supervised visitation when one of the following is met:
•1. When a parent dies, the grandparents on that side may sue for partial physical custody
•2. Parents of the child have been separated for 6 months, or filed a divorce complaint and subsequently continued the divorce
•3. The child resided with the grandparents for a consecutive 12 month period and was removed from their home by the children’s parents. In this case, the petition must be filed within 6 months of the removal from the home.
Grandparents hold a special place in a child’s life. If you need to protect your relationship with your grandchildren, contact our experienced Pittsburgh grandparent’s rights attorneys today!