Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Grandparents Granted Standing To File For Physical Or Legal Custody Of Dependent Grandchild

In the grandparent child custody, family law case of In The Interest of C.L.P., PICS Case No. 15-1549 (Pa, Super. Oct. 2, 2015) the Honorable Sally Updyke Mundy, writing on behalf of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, ruled that the trial court erred as a matter of law in holding that grandparents did not have standing to seek custody of their dependent grandchildren based on the goal of reunification with the parents because the plain language of §5324(3)(iii)(A) granted standing to grandparents to file for physical or legal custody when a grandchild had been adjudicated dependent.

Infant minors were removed from their parents and placed in the custody of the Department of Human Services after a non-accidental trauma suffered by one of the children. The trial court adjudicated the children dependent, issued an aggravating circumstances order, placed the children in foster care and ordered reunification services to the family. Grandparents filed for custody pursuant to §5324(3).The trial court directed HHS to schedule visitation between grandparents and children and directed grandparents to brief whether the court had jurisdiction to hear the custody matter. At the conclusion of oral argument, the trial court determined that grandparents did not have legal standing and ruled out the grandparents as “possible kinship parents.” Grandparents appealed.

The crux of grandparents’ argument on appeal was that they had standing to seek custody pursuant to §5324(3)(iii)(A) notwithstanding the permanency goal of reunification under the act. The trial court erred and relied on inapposite authority. In re Adoption of Hess was not controlling because that case concerned grandparents who wanted to intervene in an adoption proceeding. In this case, grandparents sought a hearing on their custody action under the Custody Act. The trial court’s interpretation that a grandparent did not have standing to seek custody of a grandchild determined to be a dependent and having a goal of reunification with his parents under the Juvenile Act was contrary to the plain language of §5324(3)(iii)(A). The Custody Act granted standing to grandparents to file for any form of physical or legal custody when their grandchild had been adjudicated dependent.

Reference: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 38 PLW 980, (October 20, 2015)

Filed Under: Family Law; Child Custody, Grandparents

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