Child custody in Pennsylvania is challenging for parents because they often disagree when it comes to exercising physical custody of the child or children. In Pennsylvania, there are two types of custody: 1) physical custody which is actual possession of the child and 2) legal custody which is a parent’s legal right to make important decisions for the child such as medical, religious and education decisions. Parents usually exercise joint legal custody over the child, but disputes often arise over the physical custody arrangement.
Physical Custody of the Children
Child custody lawyers should always encourage their client to amicably reach an agreement with the other parent on a physical custody arrangement when possible. When an agreement is reached, the parents can include a custody schedule, pickup and drop off times, vacations, holidays, etc. Reaching an agreement with the other parent is less expensive, quicker and less stressful than fighting these matters in court.
Parents should realize that custody decisions should not be based on anger or frustration towards the other parent. When this occurs, parents rarely make rational decisions. This is often a recipe for disaster because the parents spend all of their time disagreeing and fighting with one another. They lose sight of what is in the best interest of their child. In these situations, the parents cannot reach an agreement so they often spend a lot of time and money fighting each other in court. This only creates more hostility and in the end, no one wins. The children are often the ones who suffer the most.
Good custody lawyers should encourage their client to set aside their negative feelings towards the other parent and help them determine what is truly in the best interest of the child. The first step is for the parent to realize that the other parent loves the child too and that children need the care and nurturing from both parents.
Best Interest of the Child
Pennsylvania law sets forth a list of things to consider when determining physical custody such as whether the custody should be shared between the parents or whether one parent should have primary custody. Some of the considerations include the following:
- Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
- The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household and risk of harm.
- Parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
- The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
- The availability of extended family and the child’s relationships with siblings.
- A parent’s ability to maintain a loving, stable and nurturing relationship with the child.
- A parent’s ability to attend to the emotional, physical and developmental needs of the child.
- How close the parents live from one another.
- A history of drug or alcohol abuse of a parent or a close family member.
- Any other relevant factor.
Child Custody in Court
When a parent has a legitimate concern over the physical custody by another parent, such as that parent’s history of violence of drug abuse, the matter should be handled in court. Our custody lawyers have years of experience handling such matters in Montgomery County, PA and the surrounding counties. Again, this is a last resort, but having an experienced lawyer on your side is very important. Your lawyer should be a strong advocate for you.
The Martin Law Firm | Child Custody Lawyers
A few years ago, the child custody law in Pennsylvania changed. There are new provisions concerning procedures that a parent must take before he or she can relocate with the child. There is also a new trend in the law that child custody determinations should be gender neutral, meaning that the court should not automatically believe that the child should be in the custody of the mother. Finally, there are new procedures that require parents to disclose a criminal background, which can factor into a custody decision.
Contact us today to schedule a child custody consultation.