The family unit is incredibly important for a child’s well-being and development. Families look different from household to household, with blended families, single-parent households and extended family systems becoming more common.
Supportive family relationships are essential for a child’s healthy development. Grandparents often play an important role in a child’s life, and whether a grandparent’s presence and involvement are in a child’s best interests is frequently a matter of legal significance.
Understanding custody and visitation
In nearly every family circumstance, parental rights override any others. Parents’ legal rights enable them to make decisions with regard to a child’s diet, medical care, religion, school, activities and discipline methods. As well, parents may decide who may or may not visit their child, including relatives.
Though parental decisions are firmly constitutional, grandparents may petition for visitation or custody if it is in the child’s best interests. Grandparents have grounds to seek custody or visitation such as:
- Legal custody
- Physical custody, including partial, primary and supervised arrangements
- Scheduled visitation
Whether the courts grant these petitions depends largely on family circumstances and the health, safety and wellbeing of the child.
Grandparents’ rights in Pennsylvania
When both parents agree that a grandparent’s involvement would hinder a child’s general welfare, the courts honor their parental rights. However, grandparents may pursue legal action to obtain custody or visitation in cases of abuse, neglect, parental separation or death and cohabitation with the child for more than twelve calendar months.
The courts look at several factors to determine a child’s best interest. The courts award visitation or custody to grandparents when it will not interfere with a fit parent’s relationship or rights concerning their children and when it will benefit a child and reasonably support his or her growth and development.