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Legal Words of Wisdom: Grandparents' Custody Rights

Rodney Warner, Esq
Legal Clinic for the Disabled, Inc.

In some circumstances, a grandparent can be awarded partial custody or visitation rights for a grandchild. Such a right could be exercised when,

Rodney Warner, Esq
  • The court finds it is in the best interests of the grandchild,
  • A birth parent is deceased,
  • The parents are divorced, or have been separated for six or more months (if they never married), or
  • When the grandchild lived with the grandparent for 12 or more months, then was removed by a parent.

In extreme circumstances, the grandparent may be granted full physical and legal custody. The grandparent would have to show,

  • It is in the best interest of the grandchild,
  • The grandparent has genuine care and concern for the grandchild,
  • The grandparent must have assumed the role of a parent for at least a year, or
  • It's been determined the grandchild lacks proper parental care, or
  • There is parental abuse, neglect, substance abuse or mental illness.

Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania has a pamphlet about grandparent's rights in Pennsylvania. Check with other legal resources for information specific to your state.