I regularly receive visits from caring grandparents who are concerned about the health, safety, and overall well-being of a grandchild. Often, the child’s parents may be battling substance abuse, a mental illness is sometimes involved, or a parent is either soon to be incarcerated or is already serving time in prison. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law permits certain grandparents to seek sole or primary physical custody of one or more of their grandchildren. These grandparents may seek legal custody of a grandchild, as well.
In general, there must be extraordinary circumstances surrounding the parenting ability of the parents and the health and well-being of the children. Often by the time a grandparent files a custody complaint, the grandchildren have been residing in that grandparent’s home for a lengthy period of time. As a result, the grandparents are performing all the child rearing duties. Essentially, they are acting as parents in place of the child’s birth parents. In situations like this, it can be said the grandparents stand in loco parentis to their grandchildren.
Title 23, Section 5324 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (23 Pa.C.S. § 5324) who stand in loco parentis to their grandchildren to seek any form of physical or legal custody of those grandchildren. Grandparents who lack in loco parentis standing can still pursue any form of physical or legal custody of their grandchildren if they satisfy the statutory criteria.
Below, I have pasted the text of 23 Pa.C.S. § 5324. If you are a concerned grandparent, feel free to contact my office at 717-582-0400 for a free consultation and case evaluation.
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.