Grandparent’s Custody

A grandparent’s rights in Pennsylvania are governed by the new custody law which took effect in Pennsylvania on January 23, 2011 (hereinafter called the “Custody Law”). To fully understand a grandparent’s rights to custody of a child in Pennsylvania, you need to be familiar with the definitions set forth in 23 Pa. C.S. Section 5322. You also need to understand a little latin – that is, the phrase “in loco parentis.”

The phrase “in loco parentis” has been defined under case law in Pennsylania as follows:

A person has “in loco parentis” status with respect to a child when they put themselves in the situation of a lawful parent by assuming the obligations incident to the parental relationship without going through a legal adoption. The status embodies two ideas; first, the assumption of a parental status, and, second, the discharge of parental duties. The rights and liabilities arising out of an in loco parentis relationship are exactly the same as between parent and child.

Therefore, if you are a grandparent and you stand in loco parentis to your grandchild, you may not need to rely upon the statutory rights provided by the Custody Law.

If you do not stand in loco parentis to your grandchild, then the Custody Law will be the sole basis for your right to pursue custody. The Custody Law provides that a grandparent of a child who is not in loco parentis to the child may file an action for any form of physical or legal custody of their grandchild if three conditions are met:

  1. your relationship with the child began with consent of a parent or   by court order,
  2. you are willing to assume responsibility for the child,
  3. AND one of the following apply: the child has been determined to be a “dependent” child, the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse or incapacity, OR the child resided with you for 12 months and was removed by the parents and no more than six months have passed since such removal.

Partial Physical Custody in Pittsburgh, PA

If you are seeking only partial physical custody or supervised physical custody, you may file a custody action in any of three situations:

  1. a parent (i.e. grandparent of child) or grandparent (i.e. great grandparent of child) of a deceased parent may file an action for either of these types of custody of a grandchild,
  2. if the parents of the grandchild have been separated for six months or have a divorce case pending,
  3. the grandchild resided with you for 12 months and was removed by the parents and no more than six months have passed since such removal.

I have not quoted the Custody Law verbatim. If you are a grandparent or great-grandparent and you wish to seek custody of a child, you should consult with an attorney for further information. The information provided on this page should not be relied upon for legal advice and your individual situation should be discussed with counsel. There is much more to filing a custody action than can be described in this limited space. Please feel free to contact me via email or by telephone to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation further.