Pennsylvania child custody cases are now governed by PA’s new child custody law, Act 112 of 2010. The new law took effect on January 23, 2011. The law states, “it is public policy of this Commonwealth, when in the best interest of the child, to assure a reasonable and continuing contact of the child with both parents after a separation or dissolution of the marriage and the sharing of the rights and responsibilities of child rearing by both parents and continuing contact of the child or children with grandparents when a parent is deceased, divorced or separated.”
Under the new PA child custody law:
- Courts will be prohibited from assuming that custody should be awarded to a particular parent based solely on gender.
- Contempt citations for willful violations of custody orders will be gender neutral.
- Consideration must be given to a comprehensive list of factors, including: which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent contact with the other parent; parental duties of each parent; the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life; assuring access to siblings and extended family; and protection for victims of domestic violence.
- Judges must provide an explanation of custody decisions on the record in open court or in a written opinion or order.
- A framework will be used by Judges in making relocation decisions including consideration of how the move will enhance the quality of life for the child and not just how it will benefit the parent seeking to move.
- Each parent must submit a parenting plan in cases of contested custody, allow for appointment of a guardian ad litem or counsel for the child when necessary.
- The list of criminal convictions courts may consider in determining custody has been expanded.
- Punishment for willful violation of a custody order may include imprisonment of not more than six (6) months, a fine of not more than $500.00, probation not to exceed six (6) months, and an Order for non-renewal, suspension or denial of driver’s license and/or counsel fees and costs.
- Parties living separate and apart in the same residence may seek an Order for custody, but the Order will only be effective upon one party physically vacating the residence; or an Order awarding one party exclusive possession of the residence.
Check back for updates and further explanations regarding PA’s new child custody law.