During a separation and subsequent divorce, grandparents may find that they do not get to see their grandkids as often. In a tragic event when an adult child dies, grandparents might also have fewer opportunities to see their grandchildren.
Pennsylvania law has strict criteria for grandparents seeking more time with their grandchildren. Because of the requirements, it is a good idea to consult a Grandparents’ Rights attorney when relationships become strained and you are not able to see your grandchildren. This article will provide some general background on visitation rights for grandparents.
Limitation placed on grandparent visitation
In 2000, the United States Supreme Court decided Troxell v. Granville, a case with wide ranging effects on grandparent visitation. The case struck down a Washington law that allowed judges to grant visitation to any interested party as long as the visits were in the best interest of the child.
The majority agreed in the outcome, however, the way they got there differed. With six written opinions, state courts have struggled to interpret the decision. As a result, grandparent’s visitation rights vary greatly from state to state.
In the Troxell case, the father of two daughters committed suicide. The mother allowed the paternal grandparents to visit their grandchildren after the suicide. But when the mother remarried, and her new husband adopted the girls, she limited the paternal grandparents’ visits.
The paternal grandparents went to court to ask for more time with their grandchildren. A trial judge granted their request under the third-party visitation law, finding it was in the best interests of the children.
On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed calling the Washington State law “breathtakingly broad.” The justices expressed worries that the third-party visitation statute infringed on parental rights.
Pennsylvania legal requirements
Some states have remained more permissive in allowing grandparents to seek visitation, but others put in place stringent requirements. Pennsylvania has taken the later approach when it comes tograndparent visitation.
Grandparents or great-grandparents in Pennsylvania can file for “partial physical custody or supervised physical custody” in the following situations:
When the parent of the child has died
If the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months or have filed for divorce
When the child resided with the grandparents or great-grandparents for 12 consecutive months
In a proceeding, the court will take into account what is in the best interest of the child. The court will also review the amount of contact between the child and grandparents and whether visitation will interfere with parental rights.
If you are seeking more time with grandchildren, consult a Pennsylvania family law attorney. An attorney can assist in compiling necessary documentation to support your request and provide counsel regarding possible hurdles to your request.