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Grandparent rights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania grandparents who wish to protect their legal right to have access to their grandchildren may find that the courts support their cause. Some form of grandparent visitation is allowed by every state, and there are even certain times when grandparents have the right to request that they be awarded primary custody.

The parental right to determine the course of their children's lives and make essential decisions for them is well supported by law. The court will rarely side with the grandparent against the parent in a child custody decision. The grandparent must be able to demonstrate that their child or the grandchild's other guardians are unfit or unsafe. If one of the child's parents is still shown to be suitable even when the other is not, then the court will usually move to bestow full custody on that parent in preference to any claims made by a grandparent.

However, the right of the child to enjoy the beneficial effects of their grandparents' involvement in their life should still be recognized by the court, and in certain circumstances that right may become primary. For example, if both of the parents are incapacitated or killed, then the grandparents may be able to obtain full custody. If the child is placed in foster care or adopted to a new family, then the grandparents may still be able to make formal visitation arrangements.

The primary consideration of a family law court in almost every visitation and custody determination is of course the child's best interests. Grandparents who have had a significant and amicable prior relationship with their grandchildren may want to have their attorney document it when seeking to obtain these types of rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Requirements for Awarding Grandparent Visitation and Custody", accessed on Nov. 23, 2016

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