Pennsylvania courts are not obliged to follow any precedents set by state-level courts of any other state. If a judicial opinion from another state is very similar to a Pennsylvania case, though, and the laws applied in it are also similar, and the legal reasoning is very strong, an out-of-state case can have some weight with a Pennsylvania court. For that reason, out-of-state cases can mean something in a Pennsylvania grandparents' rights case. If nothing else, grandparents arguing for their rights in a Pennsylvania courtroom will probably have to prepare to make an argument for or against applying the reasoning that was applied in a similar non-Pennsylvania case.
With that background in mind, there was a recent notable decision in a Minnesota state court that represented a setback for grandparents seeking to maximize visitation time with their grandchildren.
In that out-of-state case, the mother of the child had died when the child was only four months old. At first, the maternal grandmother was able to obtain sole custody without the father's knowledge.
When the father discovered what had happened, he was able to get sole custody for himself, but at the same time the maternal grandmother was awarded visitation rights similar to what a non-custodial parent would expect to get. In this case, it was visitation twice a week and every other weekend.
The father eventually went back to court to complain that the maternal grandmother's visitation time was too great. Specifically, he argued that the visitation schedule interfered with his relationship with his own child.
An appellate court agreed with the father. Pittsburgh grandparents' rights attorneys noted that the court did say that a grandparent could be granted visitation rights over the objections of a parent. However, in this case the court decided that it was not appropriate to treat the grandparent the same as a parent when making a visitation arrangement.
The father had proposed a visitation schedule that allowed the maternal grandmother time with the child, but not to the same extent as before. The court agreed that this proposed schedule should be used.
Source: StarTribune "Court: Grandparents are not equal to parents" 6/22/2011