Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been representing clients in custody cases for years and knows what it takes to get the best possible outcome for his clients and their children. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.
Facing a Difficult Custody Battle? Attorney Joseph D. Lento Can Help.
Custody battles can be stressful, painful, and lengthy. Both parents want what's best for the child, but deciding who can make those choices can be complicated and contentious. And, of course, in worst-case scenarios, few things are more painful than being denied the right to see your own child. If you are facing a child custody battle in Pennsylvania, you need experienced legal representation on your side to make sure your rights are protected.
Types of Custody in Pennsylvania
Child custody can be a contentious issue, whether it's part of a divorce or whether one parent wants to change an existing agreement. But these issues can be especially complicated in Pennsylvania because the law recognizes several different types of child custody, each with its own set of rules and regulations. Before we look at the factors involved in determining custody, let's look at the types of child custody in PA.
Legal Custody vs. Physical Custody
In Pennsylvania, there are two sides to child custody to consider: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who will make decisions about the child's education, health care, and other important matters. Physical custody refers to where the child will live and which parent physically takes care of the child's needs. In hashing out a parental custody agreement, both of these factors must be considered in deciding how much time the child spends with each parent (physical custody) and how much authority each parent will have in making decisions concerning the child (legal custody).
Legal Custody Arrangements
Pennsylvania effectively recognizes two types of legal custody arrangments: primary (sole) custody and shared (joint) custody. In a primary custody arrangement, one parent typically has the final say in important decisions about the child's life. The other parent may have input on those decisions, but the primary custodial parent has the ultimate authority. In a shared custody arrangement, both parents must agree on any major decisions about the child's life. If they can't come to an agreement, then they may have to go to court to settle the matter.
Physical Custody Arrangements
It's in deciding on physical custody arrangements (i.e., which parent has the child when) that things can get really complicated--simply because there are so many possible variations. The common physical custody arrangements in Pennsylvania include:
- Sole custody: One parent has complete physical custody of the child (this often means they also have sole legal custody, and the other parent has limited or no contact).
- Primary custody: One parent has full-time physical custody of the child, while the other parent may have limited physical custody or visitation.
- Partial custody: Physical custody is divided unequally between the parents, where the child spends the majority of the time with one parent and occasional time with the other. (A common example is when one parent has the children on weekends or every other weekend.)
- Joint/shared custody: A common solution nowadays among parents with an equal interest in the children, joint physical custody means the child spends approximately 50 percent of their time with both parents.
Factors that Go Into Deciding Custody
Optimally, custody decisions should be made out of court by both parents coming to agreement; however, this is quite often impossible, and the case must go to family court, where the judge will decide on custody based on the best interests of the child. There are a number of factors the court will consider when making this determination, including:
- The child's relationship with each parent
- The child's adjustment to home, school, and community life
- Each parent's willingness to foster a positive relationship between the child and the other parent
- The safety and well-being of each parent and the child
- The ability of each parent to take care of the child's physical and emotional needs
- Each parent's ability to financially support the child
- The distance between the parent's homes
- Each parent's work schedule
- Either parent's history with drug or alcohol abuse/addiction
- Whether one parent has a tendency to try and turn the child against the other
- The child's preference (if the child is old enough to make a reasoned decision)
In cases where there is a history of domestic violence, the court will also consider that factor when making a custody determination.
If your custody matter goes to family court, you will need to appear with your attorney for all scheduled hearings or face a possible ruling against you by default. You and your attorney will have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses to support your case, so it's important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side who knows how to effectively argue these cases in court.
Hire a Seasoned Pennsylvania Custody Attorney Today
When parents can't come to an agreement on custody, it often turns into a nasty legal battle in court--which often hurts the children as much as the parents. If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to have an experienced attorney on your side who knows the ins and outs of Pennsylvania custody law and can help you come to a favorable resolution as quickly as possible while still protecting your rights. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 for a case evaluation.