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Grandparent rights a hot topic throughout the nation

Should Pennsylvania grandparents be given access to their grandchildren even after the parents lose their parental rights? These and other questions are hot topics in legislatures throughout the United States. Now, lawmakers in Utah are striving to improve grandparent rights by considering a new measure that would expand visitation options.

Current law in that state allows adoptive parents to negotiate visitation schedules with biological grandparents out of court. That is, the adoptive parents create an informal agreement, and they decide the grandparents' level of involvement. The new measure, however, would take that decision away from the adoptive parents, instead allowing grandparents to pursue legal action to receive visitation.

Advocates say that grandparent visitation should not be terminated simply because the biological parents have lost custody of their child. They say that grandparents deserve to be involved in their relatives' lives. Further, these grandparents often believe that they can have a positive influence over their grandchildren.

Opponents argue, though, that overtaxed foster parents are likely to opt out of adoption altogether if the law is passed. Instead, those foster parents may choose guardianship, which does not create as close of a relationship. Further, additional legal proceedings could cause unnecessary stress for children who have already been traumatized by neglect and abuse. Children would be put in the middle of another custody dispute, which could add stress to the entire family unit.

Ultimately, Pennsylvania custody decisions should take into account the best interests of the child. Grandparent visitation and parental rights must be balanced to achieve the best environment for the children. A Pennsylvania attorney may be able to help grandparents who want to stay involved in their grandchildren's lives.

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune, "Bill: Grandparents retain rights after parental termination" Amy McDonald, Mar. 07, 2014

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