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What You Need to Know About Non-Parental Custody in Pennsylvania

Published: Aug 21, 2018 in Child Custody
Grandparents With a Child

Written by Anthony Piccirilli

While parents have a natural right to custody of their children, sometimes the courts grant non-parental child custody to a third party such as grandparents, sibling, or even to someone that is not related to the child. In Pennsylvania child custody cases, the courts want to achieve an outcome that benefits the child and their best interests and well-being. If the best situation would be for a child to live with an older sibling or an aunt, a judge may grant custody to such an individual.

Seeking the help of a child custody lawyer is wise if you’ve found yourself in the middle of a custody dispute. These cases are complex, especially when non-parental custody is part of the equation. If you’re considering fighting to obtain custody of a child that is not your own son or daughter, contact Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC right away. We will take care of the legalities of your case, while you concentrate on your family and loved ones. Contact us today at (412) 471-5100 to schedule a consultation.

How is Non-Parental Custody Awarded?

The only way to lose one’s right to custody is if convincing evidence shows it is in the best interests of a child to live with a third party. While the court ultimately decides, it is up to the individual seeking custody to petition the court and prove the child should live with them.

Not just anyone can petition for non-parental custody. If you wish to obtain custody of a child that is not yours, you must have the standing to do so. This means that you must have some connection or interest in the case. Most courts require the third party to have a long-standing personal relationship with the child. They also require the petitioning non-parent be fully capable of standing in for the child’s parents.

The Best Interest Standard

Like most states in the U.S., Pennsylvania family courts typically base custody decisions on what is in the best interests of the child. This standard is set out in Title 23, § 5328 of the Statutes of Pennsylvania. The law lists several factors that must be considered when making custody determinations. Judges typically apply the same factors in traditional custody cases as they do in third-party custody cases.

Factors the court will consider when determining non-parental child custody include:

  • Who is most likely to encourage contact between the child and the other parent (or in non-parental custody cases, the parents)
  • Past or present abuse
  • Who can better provide physical safety and supervision
  • Where the custodial guardian lives in proximity to the child’s school and other family members
  • Who will likely maintain a loving, stable, and consistent relationship with the child
  • Who can best meet the child’s emotional needs

Typically, divorcing parents must coming up with a custody agreement that they present to the court. If parents cannot agree on their own, a judge will step in and determine custody based on what is in the child’s best interests.

What Rights Does a Third-Party Have in a Custody Case?

The rights non-parental custodians obtain when they gain custody of a child are outlined in an order issued by the court. Granting a non-parent custody does not mean they have the same rights as the child’s parents, and the order you receive in court will list everything out in great detail. Situations that are considered in this order include:

  • Whether custody will be temporary or permanent
  • Whether (and when) the child’s parents may visit with their son or daughter
  • If you can provide for the child’s best interests

Custody orders are complicated documents that must be followed to the letter. An experienced child custody lawyer can help you understand the provisions of the order, and how to perform them. If you are a third party hoping to gain custody of a child, or if you’re a parent hoping to regain custody of your son or daughter, call an attorney at Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC for help.

Do You Have Questions About Non-Parental Child Custody? Call Us Today

Child custody matters are difficult and fraught with tension. Having a practiced child custody lawyer from Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC fighting on your behalf could make a difference in how much time you get to spend with the most important people in your life – your kids.

If you are in the midst of a custody battle in Pennsylvania, contact us today at (412) 471-5100 to schedule a free evaluation of your case.