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Grandparents Occupy a Favored Position Among Third Parties in Child Custody

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By Attorney Nichole A. Collins, Family Law Division Leader

Harrisburg, PA: May 2, 2011

The guiding polestar in dealing with grandparents' rights in seeking visitation, custody, or both remains the best interests of the child.  However, grandparents also occupy a favored position among other third parties in child custody disputes.  Provisions of the Domestic Relations Code provides grandparents or great-grandparents with the right of action for partial custody or visitation under certain circumstances,  and such right is not limited to the parents of the noncustodial parent.  A grandparent lacks standing under the statute to seek partial custody of a child born out of wedlock to unmarried parents who are still living together.  Under the conditions set out in the statute, the grandparents may petition for an order granting reasonable partial custody or visitation rights, or both.  The court must grant the petition if it finds that partial custody or visitation rights would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship.  Moreover, grandparents have standing to seek primary physical custody where they have already been granted joint legal custody of the children at issue in a court order.  However, simply because the grandparents have good qualities does not justify an award of custody to them when the court does not compare and weigh the relevant facts of the parent's competing custodial environment. 

If you have questions about your rights as a grandparent or great-grandparent, contact the experienced team at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC the number listed above. Or, contact us online at http://www.shafferengle.com/Family-Law/ or email Attorney Nichole Collins directly at nichole@shafferengle.com

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