Does Custody Change When One Parent Gets Seriously Sick or Disabled?

Posted by Joseph Lento | May 05, 2023 | 0 Comments

Custody arrangements are decided based on the best interest of the child at the time of the initial custody order, but if one parent becomes sick or disabled and is unable to fulfill their duties under the custody agreement, the best interest of the child may change. In Pennsylvania, when one parent becomes sick or disabled, the custody arrangement is not automatically reassessed. To reassess the custody arrangement, one of the parents needs to petition the court and request a modification.

How Will a Pennsylvania Court Modify a Custody Arrangement?

Many illnesses and disabilities can lead to a modification of a custody arrangement. These include mental illness, chronic illness or disability, physical injury, and substance abuse. Pennsylvania courts have a few options for modifying the custody agreement, depending on the type of disability or illness.

One option is to limit the amount of time the ill or disabled parent spends with the child. If the court finds that one parent's substance abuse is impacting their ability to provide a safe and stable environment for their child, the judge may modify the agreement so that custody becomes contingent on treatment and the ability to demonstrate sobriety. The court can also order additional support and assistance for the parent in order to help them to meet their parental duties.

What Are the Criteria for Modifying a Custody Agreement?

When requesting any type of modification, the requesting parent will need to demonstrate that the ill or disabled parent's circumstances have changed to a level substantial enough to justify a temporary or permanent modification.

In deciding whether modifying a custody order is necessary, a Pennsylvania court will consider a number of factors, including the child's needs and the ability of each parent to meet those needs. The court will also consider the physical and mental health of each parent, as well as any other factors that contribute to what is best for the child. The court will look at each family, child, and situation individually, and will not automatically assume that a parent's illness or disability is detrimental to the child's best interest.

Getting Help: Modifying Custody Agreements Can Be Challenging

Things can get complicated quickly when a parent becomes sick or disabled. The changes to daily life can add new stresses and challenges for both parents and the child. For many parents, deciding to pursue or even consider pursuing a modification to the custody arrangement is emotionally painful, especially since health factors are so often out of our control. Our Family Law Team and the LLF Law Firm can help you navigate this difficult situation. To discuss your concerns and learn more about how the LLF Team can assist you with your custody arrangement, call 888.535.3686 or reach out online to set up a consultation.

About the Author

Joseph Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a veteran of one of the nation's busiest family courts with nearly 20 years' experience passionately helping families. By day, he worked in the trenches of family court, and at night, he studied the law. He helped countless families while working at family court, and he went on to become an attorney, dedicating his law practice to continuing the work he started years earlier. Mr. Lento's experience both behind the scenes and on the front lines allows him to understand a client's family law matter from all angles, and allows him to find and employ the most effective strategies to get favorable outcomes for any client. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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