Montgomery County Grandparent & Stepparent Rights Attorney
For the first time in history, most Pennsylvania children live in nontraditional families. Society is much more diverse than it was. Gone are the days when most children lived with a married mother and father who had never been married before, and their pure biological siblings. Now, most children live with married stepparents, single parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, or in other such arrangements.
While the American family has changed, the Montgomery County grandparent & stepparent rights attorneys at Kardos, Rickles & Hand use the same formula which has worked successfully for so many years. That formula is a blend of legal acumen, hard work, and open communication. We quickly and thoroughly evaluate your case and lay out your legal options. Then, we go to work preparing that case and collecting evidence on your behalf. Finally, we always proactively communicate with you, so you are never in the dark.
These cases, which were almost unheard of thirty years ago, are fairly common today. Most frequently, when their parents divorce later in life, adult children “blame” one of them for the divorce. The adult children retaliate by cutting off contact between their children and the targeted grandparent.
In many jurisdictions, grandparents have almost no legal rights in these situations. But Pennsylvania is different. Montgomery County grandparents may petition for partial custody of their grandchildren if:
- Both parents are deceased or incompetent, or
- The child resided with the grandparent for at least twelve months.
Not many grandparent access petitions rely on that first bullet. That second bullet, however, is different.
The twelve months need not be continuous. Families often live together during trying times or when they feel emotionally close to each other. Then, they separate again. Additionally, Pennsylvania law rather broadly defines “living with.” If the grandparents ever provided substantial financial assistance, that might qualify as support.
After meeting this threshold requirement, grandparents must also establish that the requested visitation is in the child’s best interests and does not interfere with parental possession. Some best interest factors include the child’s preference and the need for stability. For example, if the grandparent/grandchild relationship was rather close, many courts look to renew those ties. As for noninterference, one weekend a month usually does not interfere with parental possession.
This area is one of the few areas where Montgomery County family law attorneys have a chance to build families instead of simply preventing things from getting worse.
Frequently, the legal adoption process is rather complex. But the stepparent adoption process is rather straightforward, at least in most cases.
Children can only have two parents. So, the first step in a stepparent adoption is terminating the parental rights of the other parent. Ordinarily, that’s almost impossible to do, unless the parent is off-the-rails incompetent. But in this situation, many parents voluntarily surrender their parental rights. The judge usually grants these requests if they are in the child’s best interests.
A termination means no more child support obligations and no more visitation privileges. Commonly, the terminated parent retains some limited informal rights, but that’s it. And, if the stepparents divorce, the adopting stepparent is responsible for child support.
The same best interest standard applies to the adoption itself. Unless the adopting stepparent has some serious issues, such as a criminal record as a sex offender, judges normally approve these adoptions.
If the other parent does not agree to the termination and involuntary termination is not an option, many of these parents agree to name change petitions. A name change does not have the same effect as a stepparent adoption. But at least everyone in the house will have the same last name.
Contact an Experienced Attorney
Grandparent and stepparent-lead households face some unique challenges. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Montgomery County, contact Kardos, Rickles & Hand. Convenient payment plans are available.