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What rights do grandparents have?

When you think about child visitation rights, you normally think of married couples and divorcing parents. While that was primarily the case, today, that is not necessarily true. As more grandparents have become involved in the raising of their grandchildren, they are increasingly becoming a bigger part of visitation and custody disputes.

Although a grandparent may think that they have a right to see their grandchild regardless of the circumstances regarding their own adult child, they actually do not have an automatic legal right to see them. In the state of Pennsylvania, a court generally first looks at the best interest of the child before it will considered whether to allow grandparents visitation or the ability to see their grandchild. The court will also examine whether grandparent visitation will interfere with the relationship of the child and their actual parent.

Interestingly, Pennsylvania is sometimes considered as one of the more restrictive states when it comes to grandparent's rights that involve custody and visitation. In fact, on Nov. 23, 2010, the Pennsylvania Legislature actually amended to statute for grandparent visitation and custody. This modification made the grandparent's right to file for the custody of a grandchild more limited.

As an example, they can no longer file based on only a familial relationship by itself. Instead, grandparents can now file for custody only if certain requirements are met, such as the grandparent's relationship with the grandchild initially began by either the consent of the parent or by a court order and the grandparent is or is willing to assume the responsibility for their grandchild. In addition, the court must determine that the grandchild is a dependent child and that they are at risk due to parental abuse or neglect.

Grandparents who are interested in obtaining custody or visitation with their grandchildren may find it beneficial to learn more about their legal rights as they apply in the state of Pennsylvania.

Source: FindLaw, "Grandparent Rights," accessed May 28, 2015

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