Custody

Child custody myths are abundant. ‘Whoever gets the house, gets the kids.’ Or, ‘I make more money, so the kids are better off with me.’ Another classic misperception ‘I am their mother, so I’ll get primary custody.’ In our extensive courtroom experience over the last fifteen plus years, we have seen Pennsylvania judges awarding custody to a parent: with a criminal record or on prescribed opioids or a parent moving out of PA or a parent without gainful employment or to a father of an infant or to a great grandparent. The standard for a custody order is the “best interests of the child”, which as you can see, gives the court a great deal of discretion.

The court must also consider a range of factors when making a custody determination. Some of these factors are: (1) which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party; (2) the present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child; (3) the parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child; (4) the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life; (5) the availability of extended family; (6) the child’s sibling relationships; and (7) the well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.

The court must also look at the attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, the proximity of the residences of the parties, and each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements. Naturally, a Court will see as relevant the history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household and the mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household. In making a custody determination, no party shall receive preference based upon gender. 23 Pa.S.C. § 5328.

Grandparents and even great-grandparents might have custody rights in Pennsylvania. Providing that this type of individual has standing, the court shall consider whether the award interferes with any parent-child relationship and is in the best interest of the child before ordering partial physical custody or supervised physical custody.

Eager to text your anger to the other parent, I mean, really tell them off? Hold on. Everything you write may very likely be used against you. Isn’t that text juicy evidence to be used against you in the next court proceeding? Doesn’t it show how out of control you are, the anger issues you have, and your inclination to act violently? Doesn’t it reveal just how mean you are or crude? Like we said, juicy evidence. Perhaps it would be better to channel your anger into effective action by calling our firm and having us present a request to the court.

Is the other parent withholding your child from you? Is he or she establishing a “status quo” and making custody an uphill battle for you? Or perhaps the other parent has filed or is preparing to file a PFA against you (Protection From Abuse) Beware that it is often used as a back door for getting a quick custody order. Did a new significant other move in the other parent? Have you checked if that stranger is listed in the child abuse registry? The court must consider it before awarding custody. 23 Pa. C.S. § 5329. Does the other parent plan to relocate from PA to pursue a new relationship and claims it’s a done deal since he or she already has primary custody? Do not give up, as Pennsylvania law protects your rights with a strict procedure and custody relocation factors. 23 Pa. C.S. § 5337. Do you have a custody order giving you partial custody but for the last year the primary custodian has been informally allowing you shared custody? Have you considered modifying the old order to reflect the new custody arrangement, a change which might reduce your child support obligation.

Custody cases can be intricate, resulting in sophisticated litigation. Our Pittsburgh-based law firm has been in business for over 15 years and has represented over 1,000 clients in a broad diversity of complex family law cases. We are keenly aware of the matters that come up in these cases and the valid concerns that you have. We are devoted to securing for you a proper and fitting child custody agreement or interim custody order or final award of custody. Benefit from our vast knowledge, experienced analysis, and informed measures to secure the best future for you and your child.