Not too long ago, we described the criteria that Pennsylvania courts use to determine grandparents' rights to custody of their grandchildren. Philadelphia County grandparents may wonder if there are other legal considerations that could impact their rights with respect to their grandchildren. There is a U.S. Supreme Court case that dealt with the relationship between grandparents' rights and parents' rights. This blog post will give a 10,000 foot view of this Supreme Court decision.
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.
There are many obstacles in front of grandparents' rights and those seeking physical custody of their grandchildren. Pennsylvania courts have long recognized parents' fundamental constitutional right to raise their children as they believe is appropriate and without the involvement of anyone else.
In Pennsylvania, grandparents' rights to custody and visitation of their grandchildren are specific and limited. The state Supreme Court, in a recent decision, further undercut these rights when it ruled that part of the state's grandparent visitation law was unconstitutional. In D.P. v. G.D.P., the Court struck down the provision that gave grandparents the legal ability to sue for custody merely because the children's parents were separated for at least six months.
The make-up and dynamics of families are different today than they used to in some ways and are commonly changing. The role of grandparents has also changed in some families and an increasing focus on grandparents' rights has been present in society today and the laws reflect that. Laws in each state govern grandparent visitation and many grandparents may wonder what grandparents' rights are and how those laws may impact a request for visitation of their grandchildren.
In most cases, it is ideal to have a Pennsylvania child raised by both of their parents in a loving and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, this is not always realistic, or even possible. Parents may divorce or pass away, making it difficult or impossible for their biological parents to raise them. When divorce or death occurs too, the effects can be far-reaching, sometimes, resulting in the child being cutoff from their grandparents. In such situations, grandparents may be wondering what rights they have.
There are children throughout Pennsylvania who are unable to live with their parents for one reason or another. In some situations, a parent's drug use or homelessness creates a situation where it is unsafe for children to live with their parents. Additionally, the parents' abuse or neglect or a parents' incarceration can also make the parenting relationship impossible. In these situations, the state of Pennsylvania often takes the children into custody.
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.
Grandparents often want to be an active part in the lives of their grandchildren. However, in Pennsylvania, if a child's parents live together under the same roof and the child has never lived with the grandparent, the grandparent may not have visitation rights. There are, however, certain conditions under which a grandparent may ask for visitation rights.
In Pennsylvania, as well as across the entire United States, a parent may not be able to take care of the child for one reason or another. This could be because of illness, divorce or substance abuse. Under those circumstances, in the best interest of the child, a grandparent may have to raise the child. The visitation rights of grandparents must be validated by the court. If it has to be proved in court, that grandparent, as a family member, is the best person to take care of the child. However, the grandparent will need a solid argument to prove the case in a Pennsylvania court, and for that, the elderly family member may find the support of an experienced attorney very helpful.