Grandparent Custody Rights

Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations laws sets out the circumstances under which grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation. One of three conditions must be met: (1) a parent of the child is deceased; (2) the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months; or (3) the child has lived with the grandparents or great-grandparents for at least 12 consecutive months provided a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home.

It is also possible for grandparents to request any form of custody under Section 5324 of the Domestic Relations laws. Grandparents may request any form of custody if the relationship began with the consent of the parents, they are willing to assume responsibility for the child and the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity.

Peters v. Costello, 586 Pa. 102 (2005), was a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case which determined that non-biological grandparents also have the right to seek grandparent visitation rights where they stand in loco parentis to one of the parents of the child and it’s in the child’s best interest. The court went on to explain that the statute conferring the right of grandparents to seek custody is not restricted to biological grandparents.

In loco parentis embodies an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between parent and child. In Peters, there was testimony that the grandparents raised the mother, the mother and child had lived with them for several years, they had a close relationship with child and spent time with her including birthdays and holidays, and neither parent had previously objected to their de facto grandparental relationship with the child.

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