The rights of a grandparent to seek partial custody or visitation of a grandchild are conferred when the parents have separated or divorced or one is deceased.
By Attorney Nichole A. Collins, Grandparents Rights Attorney, Harrisburg, PA
If a parent of an unmarried child is deceased, the parents or grandparents of the deceased parent may be granted reasonable partial custody or visitation rights, or both, to the unmarried child by the court upon a finding that partial custody or visitation rights, or both, would be in the best interest of the child and would not interfere with the parent-child relationship. The court will consider the amount of personal contact between the parents or grandparents of the deceased parent and the child prior to the application.
A grandparent who stands in loco parentis to the child has standing to seek custody. Babysitting and performing caretaking tasks do not place a grandparent in loco parentis with regard to the grandchild, and accordingly, the grandparent lacks standing to seek custody on this basis after the child's mother dies. The burden is on the grandparents to demonstrate that partial custody or visitation in their favor is in the child's best interest and will not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
In granting an award of partial custody or visitation, a trial court will look at such things as: the child's physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being. A grandparent seeking visitation or partial custody upon death of the child's parent need not demonstrate that the child will suffer harm as a result of the denial of visitation or partial custody.
A request for custody is far different than that of visitation.
In a dispute between a parent and grandparents, the parent has a prima facie right to custody that will be forfeited only if convincing reasons appear that the child's best interests will be served by an award to the grandparents. On the other hand, grandparents who seek visitation need only convince the court that it would be in their grandchild's best interests to have access to their companionship.