On May 4, 2018, the Pennsylvania legislature passed Act 21 expanding custodial rights of children for grandparents and other third parties. Act 21 became effective on July 3, 2018.
This expansion of custodial rights now allows for grandparents, and other parties aside from the parents of minor children, to file for any form of legal and physical custody of children. Prior to Act 21, grandparents were only able to seek legal and physical custody of children in limited instances including when a child has been determined to be “dependent”; when the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or when the child has lived with the grandparent for a period of 12 consecutive months and was removed from the grandparent’s home by a parent.
Now, those limited instances no longer exist. Following the passage of Act 21, the Pennsylvania Custody Act, specifically 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5324, was amended to allow for third parties to file for any form of legal or physical custody by establishing the following by clear and convincing evidence:
- The individual has assumed or is willing to assume responsibility for the child.
- The individual has a sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child. In determining whether the individual meets the requirements of this subparagraph, the court may consider, among other factors, the nature, quality, extent and length of the involvement by the individual in the child’s life.
- Neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.
Please contact one of our experienced family law attorney’s to see if the new amendment to the Pennsylvania Custody Act would allow for you to file for custody or impact your current case.