In May of this year, Act 21 amended 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5324 and Section 5325(2) of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations Code to change who can seek standing in child custody actions. Standing is a legal concept that essentially requires the person seeking judicial relief is entitled to be in court in the first place. It’s important, can be tricky, and CANNOT be overlooked or you will never get your day in court.
Under the new law, Section 5324 allows for anyone, not just grandparents or family, to seek custody of a child if that person can establish by clear and convincing evidence that:
- that they have assumed or are willing to assume responsibility for the child;
- that the individual has a “sustained, substantial and sincere interest in the welfare of the child;” and
- neither parent has any form of care and control of the child.
This doesn’t mean anyone can seek custody though. You must be able to show you have a history with the child, be ready to show you’re serious about being a parent, and the biological parents are out of the picture. Bear in mind, if a person meets these requirements, they have standing only. Their foot is in the door but that doesn’t mean they are going to be awarded custody. They still have to show that awarding them custody is in the best interest of the child.
The second part of the act modifies 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5325(2), changes the rules for grandparents seeking standing from circumstances where the parents have merely been separated for a period of six months or have commenced and continued a proceeding to dissolve their marriage, to a “relationship with the child that began either with the consent of a parent of a child or under a court order and where the parents of the child. Essentially, if both parents agree that the grandparents or great-grandparents should not have any form of custody, the grandparents will not be granted custody.
The Pennsylvania legislature acknowledged that one of the big reasons for changing this law is that the opioid crisis is causing a lot of parents to not be able to provide for their kids whether its due to addiction or jail. The intent of this law is to make it easier for sincere family and friends to pick up the slack and help care for the next generation. That’s not to say the new laws are simple!
Custody is one of the most important legal aspects for children and parents. If you are in a divorce or custody dispute, make sure you have quality representation that understands the law. You have experienced family law attorneys right here at Mooney & Associates. No matter your legal need, you can Count on Mooney. With 16 offices spread throughout Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland, we can meet you at the most convenient location for you. Call us today at 833-MOONEY4LAW.