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Grandparents' visitation rights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania grandparents who have been denied the right to visit their grandchildren may not be aware that they can pursue visitation in court. However, certain circumstances must exist. A birth parent must have died, the parents must be divorced or separated or the child must have lived with the grandparent for at least a year before being removed from the home.

Visitation rights do not give the grandparents permission to take the child out of the presence of the custodial parent. The grandparent will only have the right to spend time with the child under the parent's supervision. The courts will consider a number of factors in deciding whether to award visitation rights to grandparents, and the primary concern is the child's best interest. If the court determines that such a relationship is beneficial to the child, it may decide in favor of the grandparent. In general, family court makes an effort to encourage and nurture such ties. Grandparents' rights are not as extensive as parental rights, but grandparents are generally recognized as potentially positive influences in a child's life.

A grandparent might spend two years raising a child due to some factor like the parents' incarceration. The child might then return home once the parents were released, but the parents may then divorce. The custodial parent may not be the grandparent's child, and that parent may try to cut the child off from the family of their former spouse.

The grandparent may then go to court to petition for visitation rights. In court, the judge might examine the situation and note that the child had a strong and healthy relationship with the grandparent. The judge might then decide that maintaining that relationship is in the child's best interest and order the parent to allow the grandparent to see the child.

Source: Women's Law Project, "GRANDPARENTS' RIGHTS IN PENNSYLVANIA", November 13, 2014

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