Long-standing law in Pennsylvania is that the most important consideration when determining custody is the best interest of the child. To determine the child’s best interests, the court must look at all factors that legitimately impact the child physically, intellectually, morally and spiritually.
The court will take many factors into account to make this determination, including but not limited to the child’s preference, custody arrangements of sibling, which party has typically been the primary caretaker, etc.
Do grandparents have custody and visitation rights?
Yes. In Pennsylvania, the Grandparents Visitation Act provides grandparents with automatic standing to bring a petition for physical and legal custody of a grandchild. If it is in the best interest of the child not to be in the custody of either parent and if it is in the best interest of the child to be in the custody of the grandparent, the court may award physical and legal custody to the grandparent.
This applies to grandparents who (1) have genuine care and concern for the child; (2) whose relationship with the child began with the consent of a parent of the child or pursuant to an order of court; and (3) who for 12 months has assumed the role and responsibilities of the child’s parent.
Grandparents may also petition for partial custody and visitation. If an unmarried child has resided with his grandparents for a period of 12 months or more and is subsequently removed from the home by his parents, the grandparents may petition the court for an order granting them reasonable partial custody or visitation rights, or both, to the child. This custody may not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
It is also important to note that the time frame cannot be met by having the child and parent living with grandparents.
Pennsylvania uses the “Income Shares” model to determine child support. Child and spousal support shall be awarded pursuant to the Pennsylvania child support guidelines as established by general rule by the Supreme Court, so that persons similarly situated shall be treated similarly. The guideline shall be based upon the reasonable needs of the child or spouse seeking support and the ability of the obligor to provide support. In determining the reasonable needs of the child or spouse seeking support and the ability of the obligor to provide support, the guideline shall place primary emphasis on the net incomes and earning capacities of the parties, with allowable deviations for unusual needs, extraordinary expenses and other factors, such as the parties’ assets, as warrant special attention.
In every proceeding to establish or modify an order which requires the payment of child support, the court shall ascertain the ability of each parent to provide health care coverage for the children of the parties, and the order shall provide health care coverage for each child as appropriate.