In Pennsylvania, as in most states, when a couple divorces, one parent may be granted custody of any minor children and the other parent is given visitation rights. Still, what about grandparents? Will they also have access to their grandchildren? In other words, do these important family members also have visitation or custody rights?
Only in recent decades have grandparents been routinely considered an option for child custody, primarily because lawmakers around the country have recognized the importance of grandparents and their relationship with grandchildren.
What should grandparents know? Grandparents should be familiar with state laws governing visitation rights for grandparents. This can help them understand their rights when it comes to spending time with their grandchildren and even getting child custody.
What visitation rights do grandparents in Pennsylvania have? Courts in Pennsylvania can grant visitation rights to a child's grandparents if one or both parents are dead, if the parents have been separated or divorced for six months or longer or if the children have lived with a grandparent for more than one year. When making a final determination about visitation, a court must consider a child's best interests and whether visitation will interfere with the relationship between parents and children. If a child is adopted, grandparents usually do not have visitation rights unless the adopting parent is a grandparent or an existing stepparent.
What is the guiding principle in custody decisions? Every court's primary consideration should be meeting the best interests of a child. In many cases, this means granting visitation rights to grandparents, especially when an existing relationship is providing obvious benefits to the grandchildren. Like many other family law issues, the statutes and provisions for grandparents' rights are becoming more similar from state to state, although every state has its own unique approach to meeting children's best interests.
Source: Grandparents.com, "Grandparent Rights: State by State," Accessed on March 1, 2015