The Worst Case Scenario: When Custody Isn't Given to Either Parent

Posted by Joseph Lento | Sep 04, 2019 | 0 Comments

Child custody battles are difficult, especially when parents can't see eye to eye. But to get through proceedings and to create a harmonious co-parenting environment thereafter, parents must put their personal feelings aside and let the courts decide what's best for the child. But what happens when the court decides that the best interest of a child is to deny both parents of custody?

Although most Pennsylvania courts believe that each child is happiest in the care of both of their parents, there are some circumstances when this isn't ideal. In situations when a judge feels like both parents aren't able to properly care for the child, they'll be deemed “unfit” in Pennsylvania, and subsequently stripped of their parental rights and denied custody. In these situations, the judge usually grants custody to a legal guardian or a responsible family member.

Reasons for Custody Denials

Only sufficient evidence based on certain grounds can lead a judge to conclude that both parents are incapable of providing a safe and nurturing environment for their child. If any of the following factors exist in a case, both parents may end up losing custody of their child.

  • A history of abandonment: Abandonment is constituted when a parent leaves a child in the care of someone else with no contact for at least a year in Pennsylvania.
  • Mental illness: Both parents have undergone psychological evaluations and have been diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness that prevents them from properly caring for the child. 
  • Sexual abuse: Any and all claims of sexual abuse will result in the child being removed from the home until that place is safe. If these claims can be substantiated, the child will move to a new residence.
  • Child abuse: The child is at risk for physical abuse, emotional, or psychological abuse.
  • Toxic environment: The parents are unable to provide the child with a secure environment. 
  • A history of neglect: Most of the child's basic needs, like food, clothing, proper hygiene, etc. aren't being met. 

The preference of a child is accounted for in these cases. If the child is mature enough, the judge may ask him or her about the nature of the relationship between his or her parents. This isn't, however, done in court. Typically, a statement from the child is heard in the judge's office, and it will be taken into consideration during the final decision. 

Pennsylvania Family Law Attorney

In child custody disputes where you are accused of being unfit, the representation of a seasoned legal professional is required. Navigating the Pennsylvania legal process without legal advice is risky. And with so much at stake, you need the assistance of someone who can turn the odds in your favor.

Our Family Law Team at the LLF Law Firm have helped parents facing accusations of unfitness prove that they're worthy of being in their child's life. Schedule a consultation today online or by phone at 888-535-3686.

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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The LLF Law Firm has unparalleled experience practicing Family Law in Pennsylvania. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you and your family, contact our offices today. Our Family Law Team will go above and beyond the needs for any client and fight for what is fair.

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