Pennsylvania Custody Law - Can Grandparents Get Custody of Their Grandchildren in Pennsylvania?

Answer: Yes, Pennsylvania child custody law allows grandparents to seek custody of their grandchildren if they establish each of the following: 

1. The grandparent(s) has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child.  

2. The grandparent(s) has a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child. The court may consider the nature and extent of the individual’s prior and current involvement in the child’s life.   

3. Neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.  

Continue to the FAQ below to see a discussion about grandparents’ custody rights by our Top Rated Bucks County child custody lawyer.  

Question: My grandson is 5 years old and he has been living with us since he was 2 years old.  My daughter (his mom) has unfortunately been addicted to opioids for the better part of her adult life and left my grandson with us.  We’ve tried to get her help but she does not want any.  We have not heard from her in the last 3 years and do not even know where she is.  My grandson’s dad is also no longer in the picture.  He left my daughter when he found out she was pregnant.  Even though he has been living with us, I want to make it official and get custody of my grandson.  As his grandmother, can I file for primary custody? If so, what are the chances that I will get custody? 

Answer: Yes, as a grandparent, you may file for primary custody of your grandson pursuant to Pennsylvania child custody law.   

Last May, Governor Wolf signed Act 21 of 2018 (the Act) into law, and it amended sections of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code with regard to “standing” in child custody proceedings. These changes have made it easier for grandparents to file for custody of their grandchildren. 

Prior to the Amendments to Pennsylvania Child Custody Law 

Prior to the amendments, grandparents were allowed to file for custody if they had been acting in loco parentis, i.e., standing in place of the parent with respect to parental status and duties.   

Even if they were not acting in loco parentis, they could file for custody if the following conditions were met: 

  • They assumed their duty with consent of one of the parents, or they were willing to assume custody, 
  • The Court deemed them dependent due to the parents’ inability to care for the child; 
  • The child was at risk with the parents; 
  • The child resided with the Grandparents primarily during the previous 12 months.  

RelatedWho Can File for Custody in Pennsylvania?  As Answered by a Bucks County PA Custody Lawyer 

Recent Changes to Pennsylvania Custody Law 

Even though grandparents could file for custody previously, the amendments expanded grandparents’ right to file for custody of their grandchild(ren).   

The Act provides that any individual can seek and file for custody of a child if they can establish each of the following three things: 

  • The individual has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child. 
  • The individual has a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child. The court may consider the nature and extent of the individual’s prior and current involvement in the child’s life.   
  • Neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.  

Applying these factors to your situation, it appears that you can establish these three factors: 

  • You have already assumed responsibility of the child, i.e., you have been caring for your grandson since he was 2 years old.   
  • You also have a substantial interest in the welfare of your grandson.   
  • Neither of your grandson’s parents provide any type of care or control of the child. 

Getting Custody of Your Grandchild in Pennsylvania 

While you may seek custody of your grandson, there is no guarantee that you will get custody.   A Pennsylvania family court would have to decide whether to grant your petition.   

Under Pennsylvania law, Pennsylvania family law courts, including those in Bucks County, are required to decide custody based on a specific legal standard, i.e., the best interests of the child.  There are 16 factors the court must consider pursuant to Section 5328 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code. Click here to see Section 5328 in its entirety, current as of November 1, 2018. 

Help from Our Child Custody Lawyers in Doylestown and Newtown 

Our lawyers have handled countless child custody cases in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.  The law on child custody can be complex and confusing.  It is best to talk to an experienced custody lawyer in Pennsylvania to discuss your case.  We have offices in Doylestown and Newtown. Call 215-340-5500 or 215-968-1800 to schedule your consultation.