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What is the criteria for grandparents' rights to child custody?

It is not uncommon for Philadelphia grandparents to seek custody rights to their grandchildren. They will have a variety of reasons for doing this including maintaining a strong relationship with grandchildren, serving the best interest of the child, focusing on the child's needs, and more. It is important that the grandparents and others involved in a disagreement about custody to know what the law says about when a grandparent can seek legal or physical custody.

If a grandparent is seeking custody of the child and is not in what is called "in loco parentis" meaning in place of the parent, a filing can be made if several conditions are met. The first two are if a parent allowed a relationship between the child and the grandparent to form or the court issued an order that the grandparent and child be allowed to have a relationship; and if the grandparent has stated a willingness to be responsible for the child.

In addition, one of the following circumstances must be in place: the dependency court decided that the child is dependent under the state's law for child abuse and neglect; the court decided that the child is at substantial risk because of abuse on the part of the parent, neglectful behavior, there was drug or alcohol abuse, or there was incapacity; the child lived with the grandparent for a minimum of 12 consecutive months with brief absences discounted and was removed from the grandparents' home by the parents. In the last instance, the grandparent is required to file for child custody within six months after the removal has occurred.

Grandparents are also allowed to file for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in one of the following cases: the child's parent has died; the parents have been separated for a minimum of six months or have commenced with a divorce; or the child has resided with the grandparent for a minimum of 12 consecutive months - again, apart from brief separations - and was removed by the parents. This too must be filed within six months after removal.

There could be a litany of reasons why a grandparent would like to have custody rights to a child. Understanding how the law views these issues and what can be done is imperative when trying to exercise grandparents' rights to have custody. No matter why the grandparent wants custody, the first step is to discuss the matter with an experienced legal professional to determine how best to move forward.

Source: courts.phila.gov, "Child Custody in Philadelphia County," accessed on March 6, 2017

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