Child Custody, Visitation & Relocation

Non-Biological Grandparents Not Entitled To Intervene In Child Custody Matter

Grandparents are not entitled to intervene in this custody matter as to one of three children where they were not biologically related to that child and both parents had at least some form of care and control of the child. The courts denied grandparents petition to intervene.      Defendant Desiree Helm is the mother of three children, L.B., B.B., and X.H. Tyrone O’Connell is X.H.‘s father while Levi Bennett is L.B and B.B.’s father. Petitioners Steve and Lois Bennett are the paternal grandparents of L.B. and B.B. They have no blood relation to X.H. Here, the court considered grandparents’ petition to intervene in this custody matter. At a hearing on the petition, the named parties raised no objections to them intervening. However, because petitioners are not biologically related to X.H., the court addressed their legal authority to allow them to intervene in a custody matter relating to a child to whom they were not biologically related. The court analyze the facts of this case under the two statutes addressing standing for physical and legal custody of a child, i.e., 23 Pa.C.S. 5324 and 5325. Section 5325 did not apply here given the petitioners were not X.H.’s biological grandparents or great-grandparents. The court also considered the only possible provision that might apply under 5324. Section 5324(4) allows certain individuals, including grandparents, to file an action for any form of physical custody or legal custody if, inter alia, “neither parent has any form of care and control the child.” Pursuant to a court order dated Nov. 29, 2018, X.H.’s mother and father shared legal custody of X.H. Mother had a physical custody of X.H. while father had physical custody of X.H. every other Sunday as agreed. The court found it clear that since both parents had at least some form of care and control of X.H. subsection (4)(iii) did not apply here. As both parents had care and control of X.H., petitioners did not have standing to seek to intervene as to that child, the court concluded. Thus, grandparents were granted relief as to L.B. and B.B. but denied intervention as to X.H.

Ref: Digest of Recent Opinions, Pennsylvania Law Weekly, 44 PLW 199, March 3,2021, Ritter v. Helm PICS Case No. 21-0145 ( C.P. Lycoming, Jan 25, 2021)

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