The wisdom of older family members, such as grandparents, can help others make sound decisions about life and its challenges. For Pennsylvania residents who may have been directly raised by their grandparents, the connection is even stronger. Children being raised by their grandparents often happens when parents divorce or separate and are otherwise unable or unwilling to be in their children's lives full-time. In these cases, grandparents may be able to provide the best custodial arrangement.
Biological grandparents who have babysat their grandchildren because their own children have been absent because of divorce, military deployment, incarceration or other issues can seek custody of their grandchildren or request visitation rights. A grandparent can seek physical or legal custody. With physical custody, the grandchild lives with the grandparent; legal custody allows a grandparent to make all major life decisions on behalf of the grandchild, including school, health care and religion. Visitation rights only allow a grandparent to visit a grandchild under the supervision of a guardian. A grandparent with visitation rights is not allowed to take his or her grandchild out of the parent's or guardian's care unless it is expressly permitted.
Grandparents who can and want to provide care to their grandchildren should seek child custody. As always, the best interests of the children is the principal consideration in determining who is capable of providing a nurturing environment. If a court believes the grandparents are more fit to raise their grandchildren, then custody may be given to them.
Grandparents who are offering their grandchildren full-time support and guidance should prepare themselves to meet the challenges that come with requests for custody or visitation. Having a legal professional on their side can make a huge difference.
Source: Pailp.org, "The grandparents' guide to custody & visitation in Pennsylvania," accessed on Feb. 1, 2015