When custody rights are a factor in a divorce, parents are often at the center. But because grandparents are so often involved in raising children, they may also be entitled to visitation and perhaps even custody, depending on the situation. In Pennsylvania, the court may indeed grant grandparents’ visitation requests provided it is in the best interest of the child.
There is no question that divorce is painful for all members of an immediate family. Parents are no doubt concerned that their custody or visitation rights may be diminished. That concern extends to grandparents as well, especially when they have consistently played a significant role in raising and caring for the children involved in the divorce.
Pennsylvania law allows for grandparents to visit their grandchildren if all parties have considered the degree to which the visitations will be in the children’s best interest. It matters too whether the visits will potentially interfere with a parent-child relationship.
Other conditions apply. They include:
- Whether at least one of the child’s parents is deceased
- The parents are divorced or separated for more than six months
- Whether the child has lived with the grandparent for more than 12 months
- The distance between the child and grandparent.
Grandparents generally have a very difficult time convincing a court that their rights should supersede the rights of a parent. In such cases, the grandparent would have to prove the parent unfit to overcome the court’s preference for a legal parent. Evidence of abuse or neglect would have to be presented to the court to prove a parent unfit.
It should also be noted that rules for adopted children are somewhat different in each state, so a Pennsylvania family law attorney should be contacted for clarification on grandparent rights in the case of adoption.
Many family law attorneys will recommend mediation first and litigation as a last resort in a case involving grandparents’ rights. However, few family law attorneys will want you to go into mediation without representation, as mediators cannot provide legal advice.
The laws regarding grandparent visitation and custody are constantly changing in every state, which is even more reason why it is essential to contact a family lawyer for help. Together you can work out a strategy that helps you retain your right to remain in your grandchild’s life.