What is the Pennsylvania process for establishing visitation for non-parental relatives?

Understanding Non-Parental Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, establishing visitation rights for non-parental relatives can be a complex process. It involves legal proceedings that recognize the importance of maintaining a child's relationship with extended family members, especially when it serves the best interests of the child. This article outlines the steps and considerations involved in securing these visitation rights within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Legal Framework for Non-Parental Visitation

Under Pennsylvania law, certain non-parental relatives have the opportunity to seek visitation or partial custody under specific circumstances. The primary statute governing these matters is 23 Pa.C.S. § 5325, which lists the individuals who may file for such rights, including grandparents and great-grandparents in particular situations.

Criteria for Granting Visitation

To establish visitation rights, non-parental relatives must demonstrate that their involvement is in the best interest of the child and will not interfere with the parent-child relationship. Courts typically consider factors such as the child's needs, the relative's relationship with the child, and the history of interaction between the family members.

Filing a Petition for Visitation

The first step in establishing visitation rights is to file a petition with the Court of Common Pleas in the county where the child resides. The petition should detail the relationship with the child and why visitation is sought. It's essential to provide evidence supporting the claim that such visits would benefit the child's welfare.

Court Considerations and Hearings

Once a petition is filed, a hearing will typically be scheduled where both parties can present evidence and testimonies. During these hearings, judges examine various aspects of the child's life, including emotional ties with the petitioner, stability offered by the petitioner's involvement, and any potential negative impacts on the child's upbringing.

An example of how Pennsylvania courts handle these cases can be seen in the landmark case Grandparents Visitation Rights, where Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of granting visitation rights to grandparents under certain conditions that serve the best interest of the child.

The Role of Legal Representation

Navigating the legal system to establish visitation can be daunting; thus, involving an experienced family law attorney can be pivotal. Legal counsel can help draft petitions, represent interests in court, and ensure compliance with all procedural requirements.


The process for non-parental relatives to establish visitation rights in Pennsylvania is designed to prioritize children's well-being while recognizing the significance of familial bonds. Although it requires navigating through legal channels and potentially complex litigation, it provides a structured approach to maintaining important family connections.