For many parents, the marriage of their child is an exciting moment, partially because that new relationship may bring them one step closer to becoming a grandparent. Many people wait for years to be a grandparent, as grandparents enjoy a very special place in the lives of their grandkids. They can provide affection, guidance and support while also having more fun than parents typically can because they aren’t the primary disciplinarians. They can help enhance the lifestyle of their grandchildren by providing childcare services or financial resources.
However, grandparents sometimes find themselves struggling to maintain a relationship with their grandchildren. For example, after a grandchild’s parents divorce, a grandparent may find themselves effectively cut off from seeing the children. What rights does a Pennsylvania grandparent have when a former in-law will not allow them to see their grandchildren?
Grandparents can seek visitation or partial custody
Pennsylvania state statutes actually provide explicit protection for grandparents in a handful of circumstances. When the grandchildren have lived with their grandparent for at least a year, when their parents have divorced or have lived separately for at least 6 months or when the parents of the child have died, grandparents can go to court to ask for partial custody. Partial custody is the legal term for visitation rights.
The courts can order visitation rights for grandparents when there has been a significant disruption to the primary family unit. Of course, a judge will need to agree with a grandparent’s claim that their time with the grandchildren will be in their best interests. Provided that the grandparent has an established and positive relationship with the grandchildren, a judge may agree that visitation would be beneficial.
Taking legal action might be the only option
A bitter former in-law might go years without communicating with grandparents or other extended family members. Rather than waiting and hoping that a parent will do what is right for the children, grandparents may want to take the initiative and ask the family courts for help. Understanding how Pennsylvania protects the rights of grandparents might make it easier for older adults to reconnect with their grandchildren after a disruption to the family unit.