Tag Archives: visitation

Grandparent Rights to Custody & Visitation in Pennsylvania

I recently had a client who called to inquire about the rights of her in-laws (child’s grandparents) to see her child.  She originally thought that she did not have to let them see her child.  Yes, a grandparent can file for a custody order in certain circumstances.

First of all, grandparents can seek visitation and partial custody under the “Grandparent’s Visitation Act.” 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5321, et al.  This grants visitation or partial custody to a grandparent with the condition that this would be in the child’s best interest. In addition, the visitation or partial custody must not unduly interfere with the child’s engagement with his/her parents.

Secondly, the grandparent, who is not currently acting “in loco parentis” can file for full legal and physical custody if a number of criteria are met. These criteria are:

1. One of the parents permitted the grandparent to establish a relationship with the minor child, or the court ordered that such a relationship be allowed to form, and

2. “The grandparent is willing to take care and responsibility for the child;” and

3. When one of the following criteria is established

a. The custody court decides that the child is at risk because of abuse, drug and alcohol use, or

b. Under the ‘child abuse and neglect laws’ the court finds that the child is ‘dependant,’ or

c. The minor child has resided with the grandparent for twelve months in a row, but is later removed from the grandparent’s home by the parents. In this unique case, the grandparent has 6 months in which s/he must file for cusody.

A grand parent or a great-grandparent may further file for partial physical custody or “supervised physical custody” if:

1. The original parent died

2. Or, the child’s parents have not lived together (i.e., they have been separated) for 6 or more months, or the parties have entered a divorce proceeding,

3. Or, the child has lived with the grandparent for 12+ months in a row and is removed by the parents (similar to above.) In this particular case, the grandparent is required to file for custody within 6 months.

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Child Custody: I Want Full Custody!

By Matthew T. Hovey, Esquire

Quite often a parent comes in for an initial consultation and expresses the desire to seek “full custody” of his/her child(ren). The term “full custody,” however, means a lot of different things to different people. Even amongst practitioners, terms like “full custody,” “primary custody,” and “visitation” can mean a variety of different configurations. As a result, the recent legislative update to Chapter 23 of the Domestic Relations Code seeks to clarify the meaning of custody terms and achieve uniformity amongst both practitioners and parents alike. The goal of this article is to assist in that goal and articulate the different types and configurations of custody.

(1) At the most basic level, there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. There are defined as follows:

“Legal custody.” The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.

“Physical custody.” The actual physical possession and control of a child.

(2) For legal custody, there are two configurations:

“Sole legal custody.” The right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child.

“Shared legal custody.” The right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.

(3) For physical custody, there are more configurations:

“Sole physical custody.” The right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.

“Shared physical custody.” The right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child. Under shared physical custody, time typically shared equally so that in a fourteen day block, each parent will have seven overnights with the child(ren).

“Primary physical custody.” The right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of time. Primary custody typically ranges from 99% to 51% of the defined custodial time with the child(ren). The counterpart to primary physical custody is partial physical custody.

“Partial physical custody.” The right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time. Partial physical custody typically ranges from 49% to 1% of the defined custodial time with the child(ren). The counterpart to partial physical custody is primary physical custody.

“Supervised physical custody.” Custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.

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