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Third Party Standing in Custody Matters via a Natural Parent or Grandparent

Every "third party" may potentially possess standing to bring a complaint and action for child custody.


I had previously blogged about standing that may attach to a custody matter for a step-grandparent. (See link to blog article June 27, 2011). But, what is a "third party"?

Third parties are those that are not a natural or adoptive parent and those that do not have a special right to standing via a legislative act, such as the "Grandparent's Rights Act". A third party may, therefore, be any person that can sustain their burden of proof by clear and convincing evidence that they have shown a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child. MacDonald v. Quaglia, 442 Pa. Super. 149; 658 A.2d 1343; 1995 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1050.

In the case of Quaglia, the cousin desired to have visitation with the child. The child was in the care and custody of the maternal grandmother after the death of both natural parents in a car accident. The grandmother sought to prevent the visitation. The court ordered visitation because of the extent of the relationship between the child and the cousin. It specifically stated:

The court found that when appellee was raised in the same household as the child's mother, considered the mother to be her sister, and had frequent contact with the child before the mother's death, appellee had established her standing.

It's important to note, that while a third party may have standing vis-a-vis another party, they do not always have standing. They must meet their burden of proof and show they have a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child.

If you're an uncle, aunt, cousin, sibling, half-sibling, or even an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, you may be entitled to assert a claim for custody of a child. If you'd like to discuss your case with us, you may email us at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC or call us (717) 268-4287.