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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Quick Guide to Custody

Grandparents laughing with grandchildren
Grandparents laughing with grandchildren
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AARP Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the SeniorLAW Center, is working to provide older Pennsylvanian’s with the valuable resources and information that are available for grandparents who may be caring for a grandchild.

Today, more than 80,000 Pennsylvanians are raising their grandchildren and could petition the court for custody in certain limited situations. AARP Pennsylvania in partnership with SeniorLAW Center is now also promoting the ‘Grandparents Raising Grandchildren’ initiative to help provide the resources and information needed for those seniors who are caring for a grandchild and may be seeking custody. Pennsylvania allows grandparents and others to petition the court for custody in certain limited situations.

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may be able to ask for physical custody or control and/or legal custody giving you the right to make decisions in the child’s best interest. The court may consider if:

  • The child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect or incapacity, drug or alcohol abuse.
  • The child resided with you for at least 12 consecutive months and then was removed from the home by the parent.
  • The birth parent is deceased.
  • The parents do not agree that grandparents should have custody.

In making its decision to grant custody, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the child by look­ing at all relevant factors, including:

  • The child’s safety, including whether there is a history of drug or alcohol abuse in the household.
  • The physical, emotional, developmental and educational needs of the child.
  • The need for stability and continuity in a child’s education, family life and community life.
  • The parental duties performed by each party.
  • Criminal background of household members.
  • The child’s well-reasoned preference.

While you are not required to have a lawyer to seek custody, a lawyer can help you navigate the legal system and know your rights and options. To learn more and to view the available resources, please see the information below.

If you are 60 or older, you may contact SeniorLAW Center for free legal resources online or by phone at 1-877-727-7529.

If you are under 60, you may contact the PA Bar Association for additional resources.

For a downloadable and printable flier detailing a quick guide to custody, click here.

SeniorLAW Center and AARP Pennsylvania have been working closely over the past few decades on several advocacy issues that most affect Pennsylvania’s senior population. These prominent issues have included voting rights, grandparents’ rights, and funding for community-based programs as well as preventing elder abuse, financial exploitation and senior poverty.

In 2018, AARP Pennsylvania and SeniorLAW Center entered an innovative partnership to promote the ‘Pro Bono Action for Community Impact in Pennsylvania’ initiative. This initiative focused on leveraging prominent law firms for pro bono advocacy work for seniors including pushes for policy changes and expanding legal protections for elders.

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