Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation


Trial court correctly denied grandparent’s petition to intervene in a custody matter where grandparents failed to establish statutory requirements for standing or prove that both parents were without care or control over the child. Order of the trial court affirmed.

Paternal grandmother E.A.S. appealed from the denial of her petition to intervene in the custody action for lack of standing. Appellees, father M.S. and mother J.D., were never married and were the natural parents of the subject child. Grandmother had been actively involved in the child’s life with mother’s consent, with child spending weekends and one entire summer at grandmother’s house.

Father eventually filed a custody complaint against mother. Grandmother petitioned to intervene; Mother and father objected to the petition and ultimately reached agreement on a custody arrangement. Several months later, mother filed an emergency petition for sole custody, alleging father had been physically abusive towards the child. The trial court granted the petition and awarded mother temporary primary physical custody and shared legal custody pending a hearing. The trial court also denied grandmother’s petition to intervene.

Father’s custodial righters were suspended pending a CYS investigation, following the filing of criminal charges and a temporary Protection from Abuse order by father’s spouse. Grandmother then filed a second petition to intervene, which was withdrawn when she and mother reached an agreement on custody. Later, grandmother filed the present petition to intervene and obtain custody of the child, arguing that she had standing to seek custody pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. §§5324(4) and 5325(2). Grandmother sought primary physical custody, or alternatively, partial physical custody. Grandmother alleged that mother had permitted father to continue to exercise custody rights after they were suspended by the trial court. The trial court denied the petition.

On appeal, grandmother argued that the trial court erred in ruling that she failed to show that the child was substantially at risk of child abuse. Grandmother further argued that the trial court failed to consider that grandmother did not meet the requirements for standing. Finally, grandmother challenged the trial court’s finding that she failed to show neither parent had any form of care or control over the child.

The court rejected grandmother’s arguments and affirmed the trial court’s order. The trial court ruled that grandmother lacked standing to intervene in the custody matter. The court ruled that the trial court correctly declined to consider the best interests of the child and the fitness of the parents after determining that grandmother had failed to meet the statutory requirements for standing under §5325(2). The court further affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that grandmother had not proven a lack of care and control by mother, noting that grandmother based her allegation simply on the fact that mother allowed father to visit with the child and had changed her mind to agree with father that grandmother should not have custody rights.


Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 42 PLW 725, Tuesday, July 30th, 2019, M.S. v. J. D., PICS Case No. 19-0875 (Pa. Super. July 12th, 2019) Kindly visit our Family Law and Child Custody websites or contact one of our Family Law