Grandparent Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania
The right of grandparents to visit with their grandchildren is one many people take for granted as being guaranteed by state law, but it is limited by the right of parents to make decisions about what is best for their children.
When couples are divorced, the custody plans and visitation they work out between them may not include provision for their children spending time with grandparents. The Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act gives grandparents the right to use the courts to petition for visitation with their grandchildren.
Rights of the parents to make decisions
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, parents have the right to raise their children and make decisions about what is in their best interest without interference from the state, including making decisions about visitation by grandparents. This limitation on the right of grandparents to visit their grandchildren is reflected in the Pennsylvania Custody and Grandparents’ Visitation Act.
Grandparents in Pennsylvania may petition for visitation only under one of the following conditions:
• The death of one of the parents
• The parents being separated or divorced for at least six months
• A child or children living with the petitioning grandparents for at least 12 months before returning to living with the parent
Factors courts consider in determining the best interests of a child
It is up to the court to decide what is in the best interest of the children.. A judge asked to decide if grandparents should be allowed to visit with a child weigh several factors to decide what is in the child’s best interest, including:
• Physical and emotional wellbeing of the child
• The relationship the child has had with the grandparents
• Whether visitation will benefit the child’s emotional development
Depending upon the age of the child, a judge might take into consideration the child’s wishes regarding visitation.
Grandparents should consult an attorney
Court decisions can affect the rights grandparents have under state law. Grandparents should seek legal advice from a knowledgeable family law attorney when visitation with grandchildren is an issue.