Grandparent Rights and Child Custody in PA

Grandparent Rights to Child Custody in Pennsylvania


York grandparents custody

In Pennsylvania, grandparents sometimes have the right to seek custody of their grandchildren.

In Pennsylvania grandparents and great-grandparents have the right to seek custody of their grandchildren in certain circumstances. It must first be understood that Pennsylvania divides custody of children into two separate types: legal and physical. The right of legal custody is the authority to make decisions for the child regarding his or her health and welfare; including medical, academic and religious decisions. Physical custody is the ability to spend time with the child or have the child reside in your home. The Pennsylvania Courts use the standard “best interests of the child” when determining legal and physical custody.

If the child’s parents are not living together the Grandparent may seek partial physical custody. When a parent is deceased or when the parents are divorced, or separated for six months or more, even if they never married, a grandparent has legal standing to seek partial physical custody. Additionally, even if the parents are living together, but the grandchild has lived with the grandparents for 12 months or longer and the parents have removed the grandchild from the grandparent’s home, grandparents may seek partial or primary physical custody. However, the court must believe that time with the grandparents is in the best interests of the child.

The court, may order supervised or unsupervised custody. The supervision of the physical custody time may be by a parent, another court-approved adult or a professional service. If the court grants unsupervised partial physical custody the grandparent will have the right to visit with the child without anyone else present and may be awarded the right to have the child spend nights in the grandparent’s home. In these cases, the parent will retain legal and primary physical custody of the child. The grandparent will not be awarded decision-making rights for the child.

There are also circumstances which allow grandparents to seek legal custody and primary physical custody of a child. First, the grandparent’s relationship with the child must have begun with the consent of the parent or under a court order. Second, the court must believe that the grandparent has genuine care and concern for the child and is the most appropriate legal and physical custodian for the child. Additionally, the grandparent must have assumed the role of a parent for one year, or the child must have already been determined to lack proper parental care (through a dependency actions in the court) or the grandparent must prove there is parental abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or mental illness. This section of the custody statute allows the grandparent to step into the shoes of a parent who is unable or unwilling to appropriately care for the child.

In conclusion, grandparent rights are preserved by the laws of Pennsylvania. Depending on the specific circumstances of each situation the rights granted by a Court may differ. Every situation will be different and will be fact specific. Before proceeding to court it is important to seek the assistance of an attorney.

Hoffmeyer & Semmelman have law offices in York PA, Shrewsbury, and Mt. Wolf. Contact our lawyers today for assistance.



© Copyright by Hoffmeyer & Semmelman LLC, January 2016


Custody and Best Interests of the Child

What Does Best Interests of the Child Mean?

best interests of the child in York

How does a court determine what is in the best interests for a child?

When there is a dispute between parents about where a child should live, the main focus of the York Family Court in determining custody will be based on what is called the best interests of the child. It makes sense that all involved want what is best for the child, but in a legal sense how does a judge determine what is best? The answer is that there are specific factors to which the judge looks to make his decision.

Factors for Best Interests

The factors can be divided into a number of broad concepts.

Parental and Familial Relationships

The court wants to see that the custodial parent will make it easy for the child to maintain a positive relationship with the other parent. If one parent is badmouthing the other, interfering with that parent seeing the child and in other ways is causing problems for the other parent as relates to the child, the court will not look kindly on that. Courts want to see the parents work together to make certain the children are able to continue relationships with both parents. It is common for parents to be angry and attempt to turn children against the other parent. This is a very unwise thing to do if you want custody of your child.

The court will also look at whether there are sibling relationships, generally seeking to keep siblings together.  In addition, the judge will look and see if there is extended family with whom the child has a close relationship.

Parental Duties

The court will look at who has provided the bulk of the care for the child throughout his life. If one parent performs most of the parental duties, that will hold sway with  the court. The court wants to know which parent is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, educational and special needs of the child. The court will also look at the availability of each parent to care for the child. If both parents work, the court will want to know what kind of child-care plans each parent will be able to provide.


Courts are extremely concerned about the physical and emotional well-being of the children. The judge will look into whether there is any history of child abuse, drug abuse, alcoholism or other issues that will put the child at risk. In addition, the court will look into the mental and physical condition of each parent and anyone who will be residing with each parent. Keep in mind, it matters who lives with you. If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend with a criminal history that suggests that person is unsafe to be around children, it will hurt your chances for custody.

The Child’s Wishes

When a child is old enough to explain his or her feelings, the judge will ask the child what s/he wants. If the child is able to express where he would rather live in a well-reasoned fashion, the judge will take that into account.

The Judge Must Explain

Once the judge makes his decision, he is required to explain the basis for doing so. As a result, neither parent should be confused about why the custody arrangement was set in a particular way. This way, if you find that there is something specific in your living situation, you might be able to resolve the problem and seek a change in the custodial arrangement going forward.

For assistance with child custody or family law, contact the York PA law offices of Hoffmeyer & Semmelman for additional information.