Grandparents' Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

July 24, 2015

​"How important grandparents are for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society! How important it is to have intergenerational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family."​​ -- Pope Francis​​, July 26, 2013

Are you the grandparent of a child in Pennsylvania, looking to gain some sort of contact, visitation or custody of your grandchild?  If so, depending on the facts of your case, you may have rights under the law.

First, are you seeking partial physical custody (what many people still call visitation)?  Or are you seeking primary physical custody (meaning that your grandchild will live with you most of the time)?  Let's see if you meet the qualifications that allow you to ask for either one:


If you're looking for partial physical custody of your grandchild, you must meet one (1) of the following three (3) qualifications:

1) one of your grandchild's parents must be deceased; OR

2) your grandchild's parents cannot be living together as an intact family, and they must have been separated for at least the past six (6) months; OR

3) your grandchild must have lived with you for at least twelve (12) straight months, but if your grandchild has moved out you must file in the Court within six (6) months of her/him leaving.

If you're looking for primary physical custody of your grandchild, then the standard is different and a bit higher​.  You must meet one (1) of two (2) standards​:

1) you must stand in loco parentis to your grandchild, meaning:

​a) you're a parent in name: for example, you receive parent-guardian letters from school or from the pediatrician; AND

b) you're a parent in deed: for example, you prepare all meals for your grandchild, take them to school, put them to bed every night, read to them, do all the things that any parent would do for their own child; AND

c) you began your role in name and in deed with the permission of at least one (1) of your grandchild's parents.



2) although you're not in loco parentis, you can meet the following criteria:

a) your relationship with your grandchild began either with the permission of at least one (1) of your grandchild's parents or by court order; AND

b) you have already assumed, or promise the Court that you're willing to assume, responsibility for your grandchild; AND

c) you meet only one (1) of these three qualifications:

​i) a Court has decided that your grandchild is a dependent child​; OR

ii) your grandchild is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; OR

iii) ​your grandchild must have lived with you for at least twelve (12) straight months, but has moved back with or been removed by the parents, in which case you must file in the Court within six (6) months of removal from your home.



As far as how much physical custody the Court may give you, the Court will look at three (3) important points (see subsection (c)):

1) ​how much and how often had you been seeing your grandchild?  In other words, what's the depth and extent of your relationship with your grandchild?  AND

2) ​your time with your grandchild cannot interfere with your grandchild's relationship with her/his parents; AND

3) ​as always, the decision will be based on what's in the best interest of your grandchild.


​If you're a grandparent of a child in Pennsylvania looking to gain some sort of contact, visitation, or physical custody, call me today at (215) 613-4280.  I can help you.


A grandchild can learn a lot from a grandparent, from family history to valuable advice based on years of life's experiences.  But a grandparent can also learn a lot from a grandchild, like how to play and live in the moment and just have fun!​

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Philadelphia, PA 19102