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Grandparents Rights Revisited Through Recent Bucks County Case
Do grandparents have rights in custody of their grandchildren? And to what extent? In a recent Bucks County custody case, the Court was faced with the issue of grandparents’ rights. After a trial, the Court granted the paternal grandmother partial physical custody of her grandchild.
The trial was based upon the argument of the adoptive parents, the child’s biological grandfather (remarried), that the grandmother lacked standing to seek partial custody of the child. She was never informed that the child was adopted by her ex-husband (biological grandfather) and had maintained a healthy and constructive relationship with the child throughout the child’s life. Other issues considered by the Court involved the relationship between the child and the biological father, the absence of the biological mother, and ongoing therapy as a result of sexual abuse by the father.
The Court based its decision upon 53 Pa.C.S. 5325 and 53 Pa.C.S. 5326 which allows grandparents to have custody rights and to file an action for partial or supervised physical custody in specific situations. Section 5326 maintains and preserves “any rights [of the grandparent] to seek physical custody or legal custody rights and any custody rights that have been granted [to the grandparent]”. In this particular case, she maintained her right to seek custody under these statutes because the child was adopted by the paternal grandfather.
Further, it was decided that based upon 5325(2), she was entitled to file an action for partial custody; this statute states, “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.” Also, the biological parents need not have been married for a grandparent to qualify. Ultimately, the Court relied heavily upon the facts surrounding the best interests of the child. Based upon testimony of the family, adoptive parents and therapists, it was most beneficial for the child to continue her relationship with the grandmother. It was found that removing the grandparent from the child’s life would be insensitive to the already tumultuous emotional state of the child.
Pennsylvania grants a fault divorce if a spouse deserts without reasonable cause for one or more years, commits adultery, endangers the life of his or her partner or subjects a partner to cruel or barbarous treatment, was already married to someone else (bigamy) when he or she married, was sentenced to jail for longer than two years, or has made the conditions intolerable or life burdensome.
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