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There are grandparent visitation rights in Pennsylvania, yes, but they are somewhat limited, unfortunately (the law was modified by the state legislature in 2010 and became much more restrictive). According to the Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents' Visitation Act, grandparents may petition a court for partial custody and visitation only under specific circumstances:
- Upon the death of a birth parent
- When parents are divorced or have been separated for six months or more
- When a child has resided with a grandparent for 12 months or more, followed by the child being removed by a parent
In each of these instances, a court will try to determine what situation will be best for the child and what will best serve the child for his or her future. Before a court will award visitation or custody, however, many factors are taken into account including:
- The child's emotional, physical and emotional well-being
- The past relationship between the child and his or her grandparents
- The child's preferences (if applicable based on age)
- The potential impact on a child's social and intellectual growth (schooling and extracurricular activities)
A grandparent can file for custody only if he or she is in “loco parentis” to the child, i.e., a person who with the consent of the parent is acting as a parent to the child, or, can prove that: (i) the grandparent’s relationship with the child began either with the parent’s consent or by court order; (ii) the grandparent assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child and (iii) one of the following: (A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child; or (B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse, or incapacity; or (C) for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, the child has resided with the grandparent. The statute allows for brief temporary absences of the child from the grandparent’s home. If the child is residing with the grandparent and is removed by his or her parent, the grandparent must file for custody within 6 months of removal of the child.
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