Grandparents’ Legal Standing for Child Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

Unfortunately, do to neglect, substance abuse, or other issues with their own child, a grandparent may need to step up to the plate in court to protect their grandchildren from danger.  Cases like this are tragic, but they sadly happen fairly regularly in our area.  Often, though, once the grandchild is secure in the loving and caring home of their grandparents via court order, the natural parent has an opportunity to recover, maintain regular visitation with the child, and the family will actually reconcile.

The law places several hurdles in front of grandparents prior to formally seeking custody in court.  Grandparents have legal standing (the ability to file suit in a legal matter and participate in a case) in Pennsylvania for obtaining formal custody of minor children as follows, according to section 23 Pa.C.S. 5324:

Standing for any form of physical custody or legal custody:

The following individuals may file an action under this chapter for any form of physical custody or legal custody:

    • (1) A parent of the child.
    • (2) A person who stands in loco parentis to the child.
    • (3) A grandparent of the child who is not in loco parentis to the child:
      • (i) whose relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent of the child or under a court order;
      • (ii) who assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and
      • (iii) when one of the following conditions is met:
        • (A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters);
        • (B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
        • (C) The child has for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

     A person in loco parentis is one who means to put him or herself in the situation of a   lawful parent to a child with reference to  the office and duty of making provision for the child, or one who actually assumes the obligations incident to the parental relation, without going through the formalities necessary to a legal adoption.  The assumption of the relation is a question of intention, which may be shown by the acts and declarations of the person alleged to stand in that relation.  When a person stands in loco parentis to a child, his or her rights, duties, and liabilities are the same as those of the lawful parent.  Pennsylvania Law Encyclopedia.

So, if a grandparent is currently acting as a parent (in loco parentis) to their grandchild as defined by law, they may seek formal custody of their grandchild without delay.  If not, they have to meet the test outlined in part three of the statute prior to filing in court.





2 thoughts on “Grandparents’ Legal Standing for Child Custody Rights in Pennsylvania

  1. We’re on the same page SR. But I have a larger ovlreal objection to the way our children have been stripped of their Constitutional rights in such cases because of decisions made in the courts. I went back and forth with my state and federal legislators to determine which level should even be addressing this issue. Currently I’m working on the state level. I collaborated with Mr. Tanner(whose family ordeal was referenced in the AFB post discussion)and my fellow AFB bloggers to come up with language after Mr. Liebham’s aides told me that was the hang up with getting this into legislation. I submitted some verbiage to Mr. Liebham and Mr. Kestell, both of whom seem to be supportive at this point, although guardedly so. I sent it off to them yesterday. I hope to hear from them sometime this week.

  2. Thanks for the link, DR. As you may infer from the AFB post, my own family has sureffed from the abuse of in loco parentis. The visible affect of the experience was a severe drop in grades for a year and the removal of our son from that school at the end of the year.(He stayed in until the end of the year for character building reasons-grades be d*****- and only after receiving a letter from the principle stating that my son was no longer under suspiscion for the incident in question and after I sent the type of letter I referenced in my post to the school district. [Please excuse my earlier language.]) The residual and not so visible effects of the experience continue to this day for all of us. This is something that needs legislative adjustment and I’ll take any help I can get to drum up support for such an adjustment.

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