Pennsylvania Child Custody Law

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Your children mean everything to you, and you never thought you would see the day where your family splits apart. When it comes to child custody, the process is complicated and the emotions involved often feel unbearable.

Having a competent attorney by your side is vital at a time like this. A lawyer can provide an objective, professional approach to the custody proceeding, allowing you to focus on tending to your family’s needs.

What Are the Different Types of Custody in PA?

Pennsylvania child custody laws allow the state to award families different types of custody. The different types can determine visitation and interactions with the child, as well as who has a say in major life decisions.

Legal vs. Physical Custody

The two kinds of custody in Pennsylvania are legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody determines who can decide on major life choices, like medical needs, educational paths or religious decisions, on behalf of the child. A party can be awarded either sole legal custody or shared legal custody, although the latter is most common.

Alternatively, physical custody describes the control and possession of the child. This kind of custody includes several types, including but not limited to shared physical custody, partial physical custody, supervised physical custody and sole physical custody.

For example, parents with physical custody alone cannot decide what school their child attends, but they could potentially decide day-to-day things such as when and what their child eats, who they play with, what they watch on TV, or when they go to bed while the child is in their care.

What Is Sole Custody?

Sole custody describes a situation where one parent or parental figure has full physical and/or legal custody over their child.

What Is Shared Custody?

Pennsylvania Child Custody Law, Buzgon Davis Law Offices

Also called joint custody, shared custody occurs when both parents or parental figures share physical and/or legal custody over a child. This is commonly referred to as a 50/50 split. Parents might have equal or unequal shared custody agreements. For example, one parent might have the child only for the weekends or the summer, while the other has them for the rest of the time.

Shared custody could also include visitation rights, allowing one parent to host the child full-time, while the other only gets to see them at regular, scheduled intervals. Shared custody allows both parents to interact and form relationships with their child.

What is Partial Physical Custody?

Partial physical custody generally means physical custody that is less than shared physical custody. Parents often use the term “visitation” as a synonymous term when referring to partial physical custody. In a partial physical custody situation, one parent is considered the “primary” custodian, meaning they physically have the majority of the time with the child.

The “non-primary” custodian has some version of physical custody that is less than shared, but the parent may see the child at regular, scheduled intervals. For example, one parent might have the child only for the weekends or the summer, while the other has them for the rest of the time. Each case is unique and, depending on the circumstances, the court may require visitation to occur in specified settings or with a neutral third-party individual present.

Pennsylvania Custody Factors That Courts Consider

Custody is a complicated process because there are many factors to consider. Courts want to ensure children are in the best care possible, so legal teams and judges must weigh various information before granting any type of custody. Some factors include:

  • Performed parental duties: Courts look at how well parents with previous custody and visitation have provided and performed for their children. They might look at how well parents fill the physical, social and emotional needs of the child to determine if they are the best fit.
  • Stability and consistency: Children thrive in stable and consistent environments. Courts might determine custody agreements and plans based on how much the child will have to change their life. If they have a stable, established life with one parent, they might grant the other weekends or seasonal shared custody agreements to the other.
  • Sibling relationships and custody: Siblings can impact where individual children go in custody cases. If parents have children together or share some with other partners, courts might determine the child’s relationship with the other children to decide where they stay. This process can ensure children have continued relationships with their siblings and maintain consistency in their lives.
  • Ability to provide care: Because kids have various needs, courts might make decisions based on who can meet basic and everyday needs or find someone to care for them while they work.
  • History of abuse, substance abuse or criminal activity: Each parent’s criminal record will impact how the courts rule. Because the court wants each child to be safe, they might favor a parent without a criminal record to ensure the child’s well-being.

The courts might also ask the children where they want to live, though this depends on their established maturity and judgment. There is no determined age when the courts specify the child can automatically choose.

All of Pennsylvania’s custody factors can be found via the following link:

The Various Legal Aspects of Child Custody

There are many different issues that must be considered in a custody proceeding. For instance, you may learn that you and your child’s other parent have widely differing views on parental responsibilities. Pennsylvania custody law is designed with this in mind, and the goal of custody law is to help you and your spouse reach reasonable compromises on many, if not all, of the potential issues.

A skilled legal professional can assist you with working through many of the issues involved in a custody proceeding such as:

  • Clarifying the difference between legal and physical custody.
  • Educating you on your custody rights under the law.
  • Guiding you through the conciliation, mediation and potential litigation processes.
  • Providing insight on how to obtain your desired custody schedule.
  • Explaining what happens if you or the other parent wants to relocate.
  • Protecting the rights of fathers when it comes to their children.
  • Answering all of your additional questions on custody issues as they arise.

Your family means everything to you, and no two families are alike. These are just a few of the potential issues that you will have to work through in a Pennsylvania custody proceeding. The law recognizes that you and your family have unique needs.

Buzgon Davis Is Here for Your Family

If you become involved in a custody proceeding, your children are likely to experience some measure of hurt, confusion and disappointment. You want to minimize their pain as much as possible, and let them know that although you and their other parent are no longer together, your love for them remains.

It is vitally important for you to be there for your children during this time, which is why securing the services of a legal professional with experience in family and custody law is essential.

A legal professional can provide necessary support and guidance, while representing your best interests. With an attorney working on your behalf, you can focus on the important work of healing your family.

If you are experiencing custody issues, contact Buzgon Davis Law Offices today to get in contact with our legal team.

Pennsylvania Child Custody Law, Buzgon Davis Law Offices

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