The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee has recently implemented some new provisions to address “high-conflict” child custody cases. This is largely in response to inefficiencies that are a burden to the courts and cause “innocent children to become entangled” in parental conflicts. A new process uses “parental coordinators” that mediate non-confrontational meetings that seek to reach amicable solutions.
Forms of Child Custody
When a child resides with a parent or guardian, the arrangement is considered as physical custody. Legal custody refers to whether a parent or guardian has the responsibility for making important decisions on behalf of the children. These decisions may involve a child's medical treatment, education, religion, and more.
If one parent or guardian is responsible for a form of custody they are considered as having sole custody. Custody may also be shared between the parties or they make assume a primary or partial custody role. If a parent or guardian does not have physical custody they are generally awarded schedule parenting time called visitation.
When the court feels it is appropriate, they may order that a parent or guardian's visitation time be supervised by another party. The court's primary task in making custody decisions is to determine what arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
Who May File for Custody?
Those who may file for custody include parents or “stand-in” parents referred to as those in loco parentis to a child. Under some circumstances, grandparents may file for some type of custody award. The court may consider awarding custody to parties that are willing and able to handle it. Custodial parents are expected to create an environment where the child will be safe and free from forms of abuse.
Impact of Prior Criminal Convictions
The court is likely to assess any criminal history among the parties in making child custody decisions. The same applies to other members of a party's household that may come in contact with the child. Crimes of a violent or sexual nature are likely to influence the court's decision, particularly if they involve child victims.
Safety and Failing to Comply
The Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure allow courts to intervene when a child is exposed to any forms of abuse. Custody awards are subject to enforcement by the local authorities. If a parent or guardian fails to adhere to the provisions of a custody order they may face contempt charges and have the following penalties imposed:
- Up to six months of incarceration
- Up to a $500 maximum fine
- Be ordered to pay legal expenses
- Have their driving privileges suspended
Creating a Parenting Plan
The court is likely to require that the parties to a custody case develop a written parenting plan. It may contain a schedule of when the child will have parenting time with the non-custodial parent and address scheduling for vacations, holidays, etc. It may outline parental responsibilities involving childcare, transportation, health care coverage, and more.
Experienced Lawyer for Montgomery County Child Custody Cases
Joseph D. Lento is an attorney that has spent years providing compassionate guidance and representation for clients. He will take the time to understand your goals and work toward a positive outcome for you and your family. For a case consultation, please contact the office at (888) 535-3686 today.