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Typically, newer laws that get widespread media attention tend to revolve around driving or employment. Since plenty of people in the state drive and have jobs, the government pays for advertisements to make sure everyone is aware of newer bills meant to improve the safety of the state.

For the first half of October, the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) and multiple other county bar associations of the state took an unorthodox approach and chose to promote a newer law that took effect in the summer revolving around grandparent custody. They want more people to be aware of the law change so more can take action in ensuring children a proper home.

The new law

Last July, the state passed Act 21 of 2018. This new law was made to allow more individuals to request custody of a minor child if the child’s parents abandon them. People who have standing to file a request for physical or legal custody include those who are in loco parentis (which means the person acts as a guardian to the child with the consent of the parents), grandparents, great-grandparents and other potential third parties.

Grandparent custody has been a frequent debate topic, so Act 21 gave several requirements for this to occur. As part of their Grandparent Custody Public Info Campaign, the PBA developed a brochure clarifying what these necessities entail.

These requirements include:

  • Being in loco parentis to the child
  • Having their relationship begin with the consent of the parent or court
  • Wanting to take care of the child
  • Having one of the following conditions occur:
    • The juvenile court determines that the child is dependent
    • The child is at risk from parental abuse or neglect
    • The child has lived with the grandparent for at least 12 months

Additionally, grandparents can also request partial custody if one of the parents dies or if both parents have a major disagreement during custody proceedings.

The campaign’s purpose

The PBA ultimately chose to run this campaign because the opioid epidemic in the state is leaving more children with abusive or neglectful parents. Back in April, the sponsors of the bills designed to help grandfamilies caught in the opioid crisis estimated there were over 82,000 grandparents as the sole caregivers for almost 89,000 grandchildren in the state. Six months later, the PBA cited studies from Grandfamilies.org, which cited that there were over 103,000 children living with a relative and no parents and more than 88,000 grandparents who look over their grandchildren.

Even though the campaign is over, grandparents with problematic families should be aware of these new custody law changes. If the PBA’s brochures and other promotional material did not answer all of your questions on custody rights, a family law attorney can assist you in developing your claim for custody of your grandchild. Now that the state is more lenient in giving grandparents primary custody, you can give your grandchild the loving home that they deserve.