In 2017, the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court processed more than 10,000 cases pertaining the child custody, partial custody, and visitation. Child custody cases are the responsibility of the Domestic Relations Branch of the Philadelphia Family Court. A custody order is made by a judge. These court orders define the amount of time a child spends in the physical custody of the parents and how important decisions regarding the child are made.
Defining Types of Custody (§5322)
- Shared physical custody: The child may reside with both parties for periods
- Primary physical custody: The child resides at the residence of one party for the majority of the time
- Partial physical custody: A party has physical custody of the child less than half of the time
- Sole physical custody: One party is exclusively responsible for housing the child
- Supervised physical custody: Periods of physical custody are monitored for the child's safety
- Shared legal custody: Decisions are made jointly on behalf of the child such as regarding education, medical, etc.
- Sole legal custody: One party is deemed as exclusively responsible for making major decisions on behalf of the child
- Interim awards: An award may be implemented temporarily, such as during active court proceedings
Standing or Eligibility for Child Custody (§5324)
Parents, grandparents or someone acting in loco parentis to a child, meaning someone “standing in” as a parent, may potentially be awarded a form of custody. Those with an existing relationship with the child may be eligible. Parties must be willing to undertake the responsibility and demonstrate a sincere interest in the child's welfare.
Factors Considered in Awarding Custody (§5328)
Courts make custody awards based on what they feel is in the child's best interest. Any safety concerns are considered. Any past evidence of abuse or problems related to drugs or alcohol may influence a court's decisions. Courts seek to identify a custody arrangement where the environment is stable for the child's education and well-being.
Court often will consider where their siblings currently reside and determine the availability of childcare. Courts typically favor parties that encourage continual contact with the other parent or guardian and members of the extended family. Grandparents may be a potential option for some type of custody award if in the best interests of the child. They will consider individuals that have some existing relationship with the child.
Considerations of Criminal Convictions (§5329)
If either party has a history of criminal behavior, the court will factor this into making child custody decisions. Any past criminal convictions among other members of a party's household are likely to be a factor also. Some criminal offenses that courts view as problematic may include:
- Offenses involving violence or sexually-based offenses including assault, kidnapping or sexual abuse
- Offenses involving child victims such as endangering children or corrupting a minor
- Crimes that are associated with drug or alcohol abuse
Understanding a Parenting Plan (§5331)
A written parenting plan may be required by the court. These may include schedules that allocate parenting time (visitation) and provisions of childcare and custody during vacations or holidays. Various parental responsibilities may be assigned such as providing transportation or health care coverage.
Legal Representation for Child Custody Cases
Do you have a pending legal matter involving child custody or another family or domestic concern? It is always recommended to have assistance from a seasoned attorney that will provide guidance and support necessary to achieve a positive outcome. You are encouraged to contact the Lento Law Firm at (215) 535-5353 for a consultation.