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Custody Rights of Grandparents After a Parent Dies

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Grandparents may be granted visitation and reasonable partial custody of a child after a parent has died.

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By Jeffrey B. Engle, Custody Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

If a parent of an unmarried child is deceased, the parents or grandparents of the deceased parent may be granted reasonable partial custody or visitation rights, or both, to the unmarried child by the court upon a finding that partial custody or visitation rights, or both, would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. The court will consider the amount of personal contact between the parents or grandparents of the deceased parent and the child prior to the application. Application of this statute does not violate the surviving parent's due process right to direct the care, custody, and control of his child because the statute is narrowly tailored in that it limits those who can seek visitation or partial custody specifically to grandparents whose child has died, and requires courts to ensure that the visitation or partial custody will not interfere with the parent-child relationship and to determine that visitation or partial custody serves the child's best interest.  

For Example- In loco parentis

A grandparent who stands in loco parentis ("in place of a parent") to the child has standing to seek custody.  Babysitting and performing caretaking tasks do not place a grandparent in loco parentis with regard to the grandchild, and accordingly, the grandparent lacks standing to seek custody on this basis after the child's mother dies.

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