In the near future, I will be re-introducing legislation intended to expand and strengthen legal standing for grandparents who are seeking to gain custody of their grandchildren.
Current state law -- Section 5324 (Standing for any form of physical custody or legal custody) of Title 23 (Domestic Relations) -- provides grandparents with legal standing to petition for legal custody of a grandchild if any one of the following three conditions is met:
- The child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters).
- The child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
- The child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.
My legislation would amend the current statute to add a fourth condition that, if met, would permit grandparents to seek custody of a grandchild:
- The grandparent(s) already have some form of custody of a minor child who is related to the child in question; or the grandparent(s) has had previous custody of a related minor child who is now over the age of 18.
This is a common-sense provision that would strengthen the rights of grandparents who want or need to gain legal custody of a grandchild. Bear in mind, the number of grandparents in Pennsylvania who are raising their grandchildren is on the rise. According to statistics compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Aging, more than 81,000 Pennsylvania children live in homes where grandparents are responsible for them, and roughly 30,000 of those children live with grandparents with no parent in the home. That’s nearly seven percent of all children in the Commonwealth.
Please join me in cosponsoring this legislation, which will help grandparents who want or need to provide their grandchildren with a stable, loving home, and which will better protect and serve children in need in this Commonwealth.