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What are the steps in exercising grandparents' rights?

Child custody and visitation rights are issues that are not just the domain of parents. In many cases, grandparents need to secure their rights, especially when they need to become second parents to their grandchildren, a situation seen sometimes in divorce cases. In Pennsylvania, grandparents who face such challenges usually need to learn more about their grandparent rights and the legal options available to them.

As a grandparent, you may be dealing with issues involving your grandchildren. If you are taking care of your grandchildren right now, you may need a power of attorney so you can make medical and educational decisions on their behalf. The POA can be easily drafted with the help of the parents, who can give you temporary authority to make decisions that would benefit the children. The agreement should be written well enough to ensure that it will be enforceable later. Depending on what is written on the agreement, the parents can grant both education and medical consent for the grandparents.

Legal custody of the grandchildren will only be granted to you by the court under certain circumstances. For example, if the parents are deemed unfit to take care of the children or if the court believes you are more capable than the parents to raise the children, then the court may grant you the legal custody you were requesting.

Adoption is another legal option available to grandparents. If both parents have died or are otherwise permanently unable to exercise their parental rights, the grandchildren can be adopted to prevent them from being sent into foster care. Once the adoption is complete, the grandparent has the same parental rights as any biological parent.

Source: Helpguide.org, "Grandparents' rights and custody options," Accessed Oct. 12, 2014

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