Pennsylvania courts recognize the rights of biological parents to raise their children. But it is not all that uncommon for courts to determine that it is in the best interest of a child to live with a grandparent, an older sibling, or someone else close to the child.

When do courts consider non-parent custody awards

A court will consider allowing a person other than a parent to take custody of a minor when neither of the parents is available or capable of parental duties. When these circumstances apply, another person with an interest and connection to the child can petition the court to take over caregiver duties. The burden is on the petitioner to show their relation to the child and demonstrate their ability to provide a stable home.

Determining best interest

The Pennsylvania family court system works to identify the best interests of the child when child custody issues arise. This factor is a priority in deciding who will receive custody of the child. Family law statutes instruct the court to evaluate several factors when making this determination.

  • The likelihood of the candidate for custody will encourage interaction with surviving parents
  • History of child and family abuse
  • The safety of the child
  • Where a potential guardian lives in proximity to other important locations in the child’s life
  • The ability of the potential guardian to maintain a positive relationship with the child
  • The ability of the potential guardian to provide the emotional support needed by the child

Rights for non-parent custodians

Non-parent custodians do not always enjoy the same rights and as a biological parent. The court will issue an order detailing the rights and responsibilities of the non-parent custodian as part of its custody decision. Important issues like the permanence of the custodianship and visitation rights for parents will become part of the court’s order.

Custody issues are complex matters that become difficult to navigate alone. Individuals interested in taking over care-giving responsibilities for a minor may benefit from speaking with a family law attorney.