So your son or daughter is not the best parent. Can you pursue court-ordered physical custody or visitation of your grandchild?
Under Pennsylvania law, a grandparent does not have an absolute right to pursue physical custody of their grandchild. Rather, they may only do so under limited circumstances.
One of the circumstances which allows a grandparent to pursue physical custody is if their grandchild is found to be substantially at risk due to parental abuse or parental neglect.
Another circumstance which allows a grandparent to pursue physical custody is if their grandchild has resided with the grandparent for a period of at least twelve consecutive months, excluding brief absences. However, a grandparent is only allowed to pursue physical custody under this circumstance if the grandparent files a claim for physical custody within six months after removal of the grandchild from the grandparent’s home.
However, while a grandparent can only pursue full physical custody under the limited circumstances detailed above, there are many circumstances which allow a grandparent to pursue a court-ordered visitation schedule with respect to their grandchild.
Specifically, Pennsylvania law allows any grandparent to pursue a court-ordered visitation schedule if the parent of the child is deceased.
In addition, a grandparent is also allowed to pursue a court-ordered visitation schedule if the grandchild’s parents have been separated for a period of at least six months, or if the grandchild’s parents are pursuing divorce.
Also, similar to a claim for full physical custody, a grandparent is allowed to pursue a court-ordered visitation schedule if the grandchild has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months, excluding brief absences. Again, though, the law requires the grandparent to file the visitation request with the court within six months after the removal of the child from the grandparent’s home.
It must also be noted that a court-ordered visitation schedule can likewise be pursued by great-grandparents under the same circumstances which permit grandparents to pursue a court-ordered visitation schedule.
Lastly, in addition to grandparents, note that full custody of a child can also be pursued by any person who is directly acting as the parent of the child, regardless as to the actual relationship of this person to the child.
Edward J. Coyle is an attorney with the Buzgon Davis Law Offices. His column appears the first Tuesday of each month.
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