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Kardos, Rickles & Hand Bucks County Divorce Attorney
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Montgomery County Grandparents’ Custody Rights Attorney

At one time or another, almost all families turn to grandparents for emotional and/or financial support. Sometimes, that help could be date night babysitting and occasional interest-free loans. In other cases, the support is ongoing and much more substantial. In many states, no matter how much support they give, grandparents have essentially no custody rights regarding their grandchildren if their parents divorce. But Pennsylvania is different, as outlined below.

The compassionate Montgomery County grandparents’ custody rights attorneys at Kardos, Rickles & Hand understand the emotional and financial dislocation that divorce causes for families of all shapes and sizes. We also know, from experience, that these problems are not insurmountable. Solid legal paperwork helps families overcome the most unusual challenges. And that’s the kind of service we provide.

Roots of the Problem

Adult children usually have a much harder time coming to terms with their parents’ divorce than small children. Adults are not as emotionally resilient as children. Additionally, adult children have a lifetime of family memories to overcome. Finally, a parental divorce transforms quinceañeras, graduations, and other events that should be pleasant celebrations into chess games, because Mom cannot sit too close to Dad and his new wife.

So, adult children frequently blame a particular parent for the divorce. They usually seek to retaliate against the targeted parent. Frequently, that retaliation takes the form of cutting off grandparent/grandchild contact.

This weapon is readily available. Furthermore, as mentioned above, since many grandparents have few legal rights, some adult children think they are untouchable. Fortunately for grandparents, that’s not the case in Montgomery County.

Legal Options

Arguably, Pennsylvania has some of the most grandparent-friendly custody and visitation laws in the country.

Initially, grandparents who seek regular visitation with their grandchildren must qualify in one of the following three areas:

  • Both the child’s parents are deceased or legally incompetent,
  • The child’s parents have filed for divorce or have been separated at least twelve months, or
  • The grandparent has resided with the child for at least twelve months.

Almost all these situations involve that second bullet, specifically the divorce component. The third bullet is rather abstract. Residency is not just a legal term. If the child lived with a grandparent and the grandparent paid all the bills, the child arguably lived with the grandparent, even if a parent had legal custody of the child.

Although most grandparents qualify for partial custody, there is another hurdle to overcome. Visitation must be in the best interests of the children. A number of factors could come into play, mostly the child’s preference, the parent’s preference, and consistency of routine.

In Pennsylvania, judges may consider children’s preferences regardless of their age. Depending on the facts, a judge could grant a 10-year-old’s request and reject a 17-year-old’s request. Parental preference usually hinges on whether the parent had a legitimate reason to oppose grandparent visitation, as opposed to a spiteful reason.

Consistency of routine might be the biggest factor. Divorce is so disruptive that most judges like to keep the same routine for the children in play, to the greatest extent possible. Many times, that routine included frequent grandparent-grandchild contact. This factor is even more significant if the grandparent was not just a babysitter.

Generally, judges grant petitioning grandparents live visitation of one weekend a month, along with generous or unlimited telephone, text, Skype, and other electronic contacts.

Reach Out to a Dedicated Attorney

Grandparents have a relatively clear path to partial custody in Pennsylvania. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Montgomery County, contact Kardos, Rickles & Hand. After-hours visits are available.

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