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GRANDPARENTS CUSTODY RIGHTS: CHIPPING AWAY AT THEIR ABILITY TO GAIN CUSTODY

Before September 9, 2016, Grandparents could Petition the Court to seek partial custody of their grandchild if that grandchild’s parents had been separated for six months or more. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in the case D.P. and B.P. v. G.J.P. and A.P., decided that reason is no longer available and legal.

The Court held that fit parents have a fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit. In D.P., both parents jointly objected to the Grandparent’s request for partial custody. The trial Court in Westmoreland County considered the parents’ objection to this partial custody request and agreed with the parents. Simply put, the Court decided it would not interfere in this basic right of parents. The Court noted that there was no allegation by the Grandparents that the children were not adequately cared for by the parents.

There are other basis for a grandparent’s (and also a great grandparent’s) request under the statute,

1. In cases where one parent is deceased;

2. Where a Divorce action has been filed and continued by one parent; or

3. A grandchild had lived with a grandparent for at least one year prior to the petition and the custody petition was filed not more than six months after that joint residency had ended.

This case does not disturb those reasons for a request for custody by a grandparent. The court only held invalid the language concerning the parents being separated for six months or more as a reason a grandparent could file for partial custody.

There were two Dissenting opinions to this case. Dissenting Opinions are filed by judges when there is disagreement on the Court with a decision. They can form the basis for changes in the law in the future. Be aware that this could be the beginning of a further eroding of Grandparents Rights in Pennsylvania. Stay tuned.

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