As a father going through a divorce in Pennsylvania, you're no doubt having a difficult time. You want what's best for your kids, but you may not even be aware of what your rights are. Many fathers assume that courts automatically side with the child's mother because that used to be how it was done. In modern custody proceedings in Pennsylvania, fathers and mothers have equal rights and courts will attempt to do what is in the best interest of the child.
Don't assume you have fewer rights than your child's mother. If you can prove that you can provide what's best for the child, courts will see it as a legitimate claim. This guide to fathers' rights in Pennsylvania divorces will help you better understand what you're entitled to and how to stand up for yourself in a child custody or child support case.
Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, there are two types of custody that parents can be awarded over their children: physical and legal. The Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Section 5322 states that legal custody is “the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including but not limited to medical, religious, and educational decisions.”
Physical custody refers to who the child physically lives with. According to Section 5323, physical custody can be:
- Shared: Each parent is allowed to spend significant amounts of time with the child, and the child may live half of the time with one parent and half of the time with the other.
- Primary: A parent with primary physical custody of the child has the child live with them the majority of the time. The other parent is usually granted partial custody.
- Partial: A parent with partial physical custody has the child live with them less than the majority of the time. The other parent is usually granted primary custody.
- Sole: A parent with sole physical custody is allowed to have the child live with them all of them but may agree to supervised custody visits with the other parent.
It's very unlikely that one parent will be granted sole custody and the other will be denied the right to see their child at all. If you and your child's other parent are having difficulties coming to an agreement about custody, you should both seek the services of a child custody attorney.
Even if you and the other parent do agree on the custody arrangement, it's best to speak with an attorney so you can understand what your rights are. You'll also need an attorney's assistance to make a custody agreement a legally binding court order.
Child custody in Pennsylvania is determined by several factors and ultimately, the judge will decide to do what's best for the child. It's important to show that you would allow your child to communicate with and see their other parent often, as the judge typically takes this into account in custody cases as well. Also, keep in mind that you won't automatically lose a custody case just because you have a lower income than your ex-spouse, as long as you have enough income to provide for your child's basic needs.
Paying Child Support in Pennsylvania
For child support payments in Pennsylvania, the higher-earning parent will pay child support to the lower-earning parent, if they have shared custodial rights. Before determining who the higher-earning parent is, however, the court takes several factors into account, such as:
- The number of children covered by the child support order
- The monthly after-tax income of each parent
- Additional expenses for the child
- Support for a child from a previous relationship
- Personal medical expenses
The courts may look at other factors that would affect how much income you have available to cover your child's needs.
If you and the child's mother have shared custody, child support payments are meant to maintain the same sort of lifestyle in each household. You should not assume that as a father, you will automatically have to be the one paying child support. These payments are based entirely on the custody order you have with the child's other parent and calculations concerning your income. If both you and your ex-spouse have income that is relatively equal, it's possible that neither of you will have to pay child support.
Another thing to keep in mind if you and your former spouse disagree about child support payments is that these funds are for the child, they're not additional alimony payments. Many parents who argue over child support tend to lose sight of this fact. Working with an attorney can help make the process go more smoothly and ensure that your rights are not taken advantage of and that your child's best interests remain the priority.
Call a Fathers' Rights Divorce Attorney in Pennsylvania
If you're going through a divorce and aren't sure what your rights are as a father, you're not alone. Most people—mothers and fathers—aren't aware of all the nuances of the divorce, child custody, and child support processes in Pennsylvania until they have to go through them. As this type of case can be complex, you shouldn't try to handle it alone and you shouldn't assume you have any fewer rights than your former spouse simply because of your gender. You have equal rights and the courts will always try to act in the best interests of the child. To help you get through this process and understand how to stand up for your rights, consult with an experienced family law attorney who can provide the knowledge, support, and guidance you need during this difficult time.
Joseph D. Lento helps Pennsylvania families dealing with divorce, child custody, and child support proceedings and always wants what is best for you and your family. Having helped many fathers with divorce cases before, he understands what you're going through and offers empathetic as well as knowledgeable advice for your situation. Contact the Lento Law Firm today by calling 888-535-3686.