Child Custody Options For Grandparents

grandparents walking through sand dunes with granddaughter on grandfather’s shouldersGrandparents have always been a significant influence on many children’s lives, and it’s become increasingly common for them to take on parental roles when caring for their grandchildren. Unfortunately, this increase in grandparents acting as parental figures to their grandchildren is associated with the sharp rise of opioid use in Pennsylvania. At Thomas, Conrad & Conrad, our family law attorneys understand that grandchild adoption and custody battles can be emotionally and financially draining. An attorney can take some of the weight off your shoulders and help you understand your options and rights while keeping the best interests of your grandchildren in mind.

Grandparents’ Custody Law In Pennsylvania

Grandparents who are faced with being the sole caregivers to their grandchildren must file for legal custody, so they have the authority to act as a legal guardian. Fortunately, recent amendments to the Pennsylvania Custody Law have strengthened the legal and physical custody rights of grandparents as defined in the best interests of the child.

Changes to the Custody Act expand the definition of individuals who may sue for custody of a child, allowing family members, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and older siblings, to intervene for the sake of the child’s best interests.

Depending on the circumstances, a grandparent may file for primary physical or legal custody if:

  • The grandparent has assumed or is willing to assume, responsibility for the child
  • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months
  • The relationship with the child began with parental consent or due to court order
  • Abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol addiction, or parent incapacity has put the child at risk
  • Both parents are deceased

Partial custody or supervised physical custody, also known as visitation, can be pursued by a grandparent when:

  • A parent is deceased
  • The parents of the child are divorced or separated for at least six months and have started divorce proceedings
  • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 consecutive months

How A Family Law Attorney Can Help

Filing for physical and legal custody is one way to prevent children from being placed into the foster care system if their parents are unable to care for them and haven’t authorized someone else to do so. In these types of cases, time is of the essence, so it’s vital to contact an attorney to get the ball rolling as soon as possible. If both parents’ parental rights have already been terminated or both parents are deceased, in addition to seeking custody, you may want to talk with your lawyer about grandchild adoption.

It’s also important to keep in mind that even if you’re granted the right to file for custody (or standing), it doesn’t mean you’re automatically awarded guardianship. Evidence to support your claims must be presented to the court, which considers the best interest of the child.

Many factors are considered as outlined in the Pennsylvania Custody Act. Although seeking grandchild adoption or custody can be daunting, having a compassionate family law attorney to guide you through the process can take away some of the stress, and above all, protect the health, welfare, and best interests of your grandchildren.

Contact A Lehigh Valley Family Law Attorney To Learn More

If you’re considering grandchild adoption or seeking custody, our team at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad is dedicated to helping children find the stability and loving homes they deserve. Contact us online or call us at 610-867-2900 to schedule a consultation. Our offices are conveniently located in Bethlehem, Stroudsburg, Allentown, and Topton, Pennsylvania.

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