Some Pennsylvania grandparents may be surprised to learn that grandparent visitation rights are relatively new. In fact, visitation laws did not even exist four decades ago. Because they are so new, grandparent visitation laws can prove to be highly complex. Myriad complexities can arise due to constitutional challenge and differences in state laws.
One such constitutional change occurred during a case known as Troxel v. Granville. The case involved grandparents who had petitioned to be granted visitation rights after the mother of their grandchild restricted visits to only one per month and holidays. The result of this case was that the Supreme Court found that, essentially, the mother's rights as a parent were violated. However, they also did not find, in general, that a third-party petitioner seeking custody of a child is unconstitutional.
The Troxel effect makes it so states now submit a lot more judgment to the parent, allowing the parent to have much more say when it comes to the best interests of the child. However, grandparents still have some limited rights and can, in some cases, seek custody. The laws for seeking out custody are often state specific. In Pennsylvania, a grandparent may be able to obtain custody of a grandchild if that grandchild has lived with the parent for more than 12 months, the parents have been divorced more than six months or if one of the parents has passed away.
As becomes apparent, the laws surrounding grandparents' rights can involve much that may not be initially obvious. In order to fully understand the nuances involved, it can help to have an attorney explain what rights a grandparent has and what that grandparent can do to protect those rights.
Source: FindLaw, "Grandparent Visitation Rights," Accessed on Oct. 12, 2015