Recent changes for Grandparent Standing in Pennsylvania Custody Actions

Section 5325 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Statute enumerates certain criterion that if met, allows a grandparent or great-grandparent to file an action seeking partial physical custody or supervised visits of their grandchildren.  One of these situations that allow the initiation of a grandparent custody action is where the parent of the child is deceased.  Another situation is when the child has resided with the grandparent for at least twelve (12) consecutive months, among other things.  The final situation is what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently, in part, determined to be unconstitutional.

Specifically, the PA Supreme Court determined that a portion of Section 5325(2) is unconstitutional.  Section 5325(2) allows a grandparent or great-grandparent  to initiate an action for custody where the parents of the child have been separated for a period of at least six months or have commenced and continued a proceeding to dissolve their marriage.  The Court determined that simply because parents are separated for a period of six months does not mean that the parents are unfit, or that their role as parents is questionable on the sole basis that they have separated.  It is the period of separation for six months language found in the Statute that has been deemed unconstitutional by the Commonwealth’s highest Court.

Grandparents and great-grandparents may still meet the burden to establish their standing to seek custody of their grandchildren; however, this recent ruling certainly places more restrictions on grandparents in establishing their ability to file a custody action.