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