VICTORIA S. HOLLISTER
Ms. Hollister is a graduate of Penn State University and Temple University School of Law. She is a member of the PA, Montgomery County and Berks County Bar Associations.
Ms. Hollister is the mother of three daughters and resides in Berks County.
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The material in this publication was created as of the date set forth above and is based on laws, court decisions, administrative rulings and congressional materials that existed at that time, and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on specific facts. The information in this publication is not intended to create, and the transmission and receipt of it does not constitute, a lawyer-client relationship.
CUSTODY ISSUES: GRANDPARENT CUSTODY
Pennsylvania, like most states, allows grandparent custody rights under certain circumstances. In no case, however, do grandparents have the right to custody when the children are in an intact family. Grandparents and great-grandparents are eligible for supervised or partial physical custody if certain criteria are met. Supervised custody is what was previously referred to as “visitation” in that the child does not leave the parent’s custody; rather, the grandparent “visits” at the parent’s home. For either of these forms of custody, the grandparent must first establish that one of the following three circumstances pertains to them:
1. Where the parent of the child is deceased, a parent or grandparent of the deceased parent may file an action under this section;
2. Where the parents of the child have been separated for a period of at least 6 months or have commenced and continued a proceeding to dissolve their marriage; or
3. When the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent or great-grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, an action must be filed within 6 months after the removal of the child from the home.
In addition to the above circumstances, grandparents and great-grandparents as well as other third parties, may qualify for primary physical custody and legal custody (the right to make major decisions affecting the child) if they stand in loco parentis to the child. That is, they have assumed the duties and obligations of a parent. A grandparent or great-grandparent who is not in loco parentis to the child, may file an action for any form of custody if other certain conditions are met.
Once the grandparent has established standing (the situations which allow them to bring legal action) the same factors will be used by the court in determining whether they should be granted custody. Additional factors are also considered, including whether granting custody to a grandparent would interfere with the parent-child relationship.
Pennsylvania law defines relocation as “a change in residence that significantly impairs the ability of a non-relocating parent to exercise custodial rights.” Relocations cannot occur until everyone who has custody rights to the child consents to the proposed relocation or the court approves the relocation. There are very specific requirements of how a party must notify those who have custody rights. Notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall be given no later than:
(1) 60th day before the date of the proposed relocation; or
(2) 10th day after the date that the individual knows of the relocation if:
(a) the individual did not know and could not reasonably have known of the relocation in sufficient time to comply with the 60 day notice; and
(b) it is not reasonably possible to delay the date of relocation so as to comply with the 60 day notice.
Some very specific information must be included with the notice of proposed relocation, including a proposal for a revised custody schedule and a “counter-affidavit” for the other party to complete and file if they oppose the relocation and/or the proposed change in the custody schedule. If the other party objects to the relocation, a hearing will be held. The judge will consider nine enumerated factors in deciding the relocation issue. In addition, if the relocation is granted, the court will consider the sixteen custody factors in determining the appropriate custody schedule for the child.
If you would like to discuss your particular custody situation or any other family law matter, please call me at 610-323-2800 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, please watch OWM's July 2015 Legal Talk program regarding Custody Issues: Grandparent Custody and Parental Relocation on our website here.
OWM Law sponsoring First Friday celebration in Phoenixville on 8/7/15, 9/3/14 and 10/2/14.
David A. Megay, Esq., speaking at Chester County Night School Seminar (6:30p.m.-8:30p.m.) at Owen J. Roberts High School, Room 124, Pottstown, PA, on 9/30/15 entitled "Buying and Selling Real Estate in PA" and on 10/28/15 entitled "Starting Your Own Business" (contact Chester County Night School at 610-692-1964 or online at www.chestercountynightschool.org).
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