When a couple is going through a divorce, both individuals are facing many difficult decisions. One of the most common challenges is deciding how much time with the children will be given to the parents. In the state of Pennsylvania, the child custody law requires parents to act in the best interests of their children. This means that if a couple can’t agree on how the child’s time will be divided between them, it will be a judge who ultimately makes the decision.
Child Custody Factors
There are common factors a judge will use to determine child custody, such as:
- Alcohol or drug abuse in the home of either parent.
- Determining the parent a judge believes will permit and encourage contact between the child and the other parent.
- The proximity of one parent to the other.
- If one parent has engaged in domestic violence.
- The ability of each parent to meet the physical as well as emotional needs of the children.
- Duties each parent regularly performs for the children.
- The ability of each parent to keep a nurturing, loving, and stable relationship with the children.
- A child’s relationship with siblings as well as the existence of an extended family.
- The ability to meet the needs of a child for family life, community life, as well as a child’s education.
When a court is the one who decides custody during a divorce, it determines which parent will have legal custody and which one will have physical custody. Legal custody grants a parent the right to be involved with decisions impacting the life of the child. This could pertain to educational, medical, as well as religious decisions and more. Physical custody involves which of the parents will have the children in their care.
Types of Pennsylvania Physical Child Custody
When parents share legal custody, they will be required to consult with one another regarding any significant decisions involving their children. The laws in Pennsylvania identify seven different types of child custody. The following are the Pennsylvania General Assembly definitions of physical child custody.
- Shared physical custody: The right of more than one individual to assume physical custody of the child, each having significant periods of physical custodial time with the child.
- Primary physical custody: The right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of the time.
- Partial physical custody: The right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
- Sole physical custody: The right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.
- Supervised physical custody: Custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.
- Shared legal custody: The right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.
- Sole legal custody: The right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child.
It is important to note that in cases of Supervised Visitation, one parent is only permitted to visit the children when another person is present. The person designated to do this is often a relative, friend, or social worker. Both parents have to agree upon the designation of this person. That third party may also be a person appointed by the court. Based upon what is determined by the court, this designated individual will have the role of a chaperone during the visitation between the parent and child.
When a court gets involved with determining custody, it will weigh all the factors involved in the case. A judge will then issue a custody order. This order will cover the allocation of custody as well as visitation rights of the non-custodial parent after the divorce. The judge will explain the reasoning for the determination within the custody order during open court or with a written opinion. Should a judge, or any party to the action, determine any possible risks or harm to a child, safety requirements may also be included. This will be done to protect those the judge has determined to be at risk.
No Court Interference
A divorcing couple will know what is or isn’t in the child’s best interest more than a family court judge. There is a good chance the judge will not have previously met the divorcing couple or their children. When a couple can reach an agreement without the help of a judge, they will have more control over critical decisions involving their children. When couples agree, it results in the best possible lives for their children post-divorce.
We can help clients who need to file a petition for custody modification. The possible grounds for a custody change could involve the relocation of either parent for a career or remarriage. It could also involve the development of drug or alcohol issues or dependence by a parent, someone living in the same residence as the parent, and more. Schedule a free consultation today, and we’ll help make sense of it all.