In 2019, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has been actively implementing new rules that relate to “high-conflict” cases of child custody. The Domestic Procedural Rules Committee describes these measures as part of an overall “mediation concept” that will more efficiently allow the parties to arrive at an amicable solution. The Supreme Court says that these new procedures are consistent with their commitment to protecting innocent children and always act in their best interests.
Legal Custody vs Physical Custody
Physical custody describes the parent that has possession and control of a child. Legal custody may be awarded to a parent(s) making them responsible for major decisions on behalf of the child including health care, education, and religion. When one parent is responsible for a form of custody they are deemed as having sole custody. If both parents have custody it is considered shared custody.
A parent that has custody less than half of the time is considered to have partial custody. The parent that is not awarded physical custody generally will have a visitation schedule. If the court deems it necessary, they may order that visitation or physical custody be supervised by a third party.
What Factors Influence Custody Awards?
There are many factors that the court takes into consideration when making custody awards. Generally speaking, the court will act according to what they believe is in the best interest of the child. They will place significant emphasis on the safety of the child. This includes any potential for abuse or neglect. The court makes assessments regarding the ability of the parties to maintain a stable environment for the child. This pertains to the child's education and activity that allow the child to engage with other family members and the community.
Custody awards may be influenced by any current custody arrangements of siblings. In younger children, the court may analyze the ability of the parties to provide childcare. The court will consider the physical, mental, and emotional health of the parties. Any history of physical abuse or problems with drugs and alcohol may be factors.
Failing to Comply With a Custody Order
The court expects that the parties will adhere to provisions of any custody order. Acts of willful noncompliance may be considered contempt. Contempt is punishable by probation, fines, and imprisonment. A noncompliant party may be ordered to pay for legal expenses that are incurred and may also have their driving privileges suspended.
Considerations Associated With Criminal Convictions
Any past criminal convictions that the parties have will be considered by the court in making child custody decisions. They may also consider any history of criminal activity among individuals who are members of the households. Some of the criminal offenses that the court may consider to be a major concern include:
- Crimes of violence or sexual offenses including assault, unlawful restraint, kidnapping or sexual abuse
- Those that victimize children such as luring a child into a vehicle, endangering children or corruption of a minor
- Offenses that involve alcohol or drugs
Effective Legal Representation for Child Custody Cases
Some parents approach child custody matters lacking preparation and without realistic expectations. It is important to enter these legal proceedings with assistance from an experienced local attorney. You are encouraged to contact the office of Joseph D. Lento today for a consultation at (888) 535-3686.