Child custody and visitation is often the most complex family law issue due to the highly sensitive and emotionally driven nature of determining where the children live and how much time each parent gets to spend with them. The difficult nature of custody disputes is why it is important that you have a compassionate but experienced advocate on your side. Our attorneys at JSDC Law Offices can help you, whether you are just beginning to seek custody or need help handling a dispute. Contact us today at 717-520-4400 to find out how we can help you make sure your children are protected.
How Does Child Custody Work?
In Pennsylvania, the standard for determining where the children will live and whether visitation is granted is focused on “the best interests of the child.” In determining those best interests, the court looks to a number of factors.
Day-to-day needs: The court looks to which parent tends to provide most of the care for the child or children. Who is the most involved in the child’s day-to-day life and will provide the most care for the child’s physical, educational, special and emotional needs. Not only on a daily basis but in the future.
Safety: Is there a history of abuse in the household of one parent? Is there a history of drug or alcohol abuse? Are there any specific mental or physical concerns? This includes not only the parent but also anyone residing in his or her home.
Practical: How close do the parties live to each other? Who is better able to arrange for child care? Is extended family available? How much is each parent available to care for the children?
Relationships: Is one parent more likely to encourage a continued relationship with the other parent? Is there a history of one person trying to cause conflict with the other parent or trying to turn the children against that parent? Are there siblings involved and where will they be living?
These are just some of the factors the judge will examine. Any relevant factor may be looked to in determining where the children should reside and how much visitation should be allowed. This is why it is important that you have one of our lawyers develop compelling argument for the court demonstrating why the factors are in your favor.
Types Of Custody
There are a number of types of custody available and our attorneys can explain the various types when you contact us. To begin with, there are two broad categories: physical and legal custody.
Legal custody entails the right to make major decisions on a child’s behalf, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.
Physical custody involves the amount of quality time you spend with your child and where she lives.
In many cases, the parents will have shared physical and legal custody. This is when the children live with both parents in relatively equal amounts and both parents have equal legal responsibility.
The next type is primary physical custody. This is when the children spend the majority of time with one parent, but generally still visit the other parent frequently. The amount of legal responsibility may vary, but it is normally still shared.
Sole custody is when the child lives with one parent and that parent has sole legal responsibility as well.
Sole physical and legal custody is often awarded when one parent is considered to be unsafe for the children.
In some cases, supervised visitation may be awarded for the parent who does not have physical custody of the children. Custody disputes occur not only between the biological or adoptive parents of a child but other legally interested parties as well. For example, in Pennsylvania, there are very specific circumstances when grandparents can share or even take custody over their grandchildren.
Custody Can Change
Child custody arrangements are not written in stone. They can and do change based on how the factors discussed change. For example, if one parent becomes very busy and the other parent less so, it might make sense for the less busy parent to spend more time with the children. In addition, if one parent lived in a dangerous situation, but resolves that danger, supervised visitation could become unsupervised. Another source of custody changes involves when it becomes necessary for the primary caregiver to relocate for a job or other reasons. Keep in mind that child support and custody generally work together. How much time the children live with one parent impacts the amount the other parent will be required to pay.
How Can We Help?
Our Harrisburg custody lawyers will provide you the support and peace of mind you need while zealously representing your interests in the following areas:
We also handle drafting and enforcement matters related to domestic violence proceedings, adoptions and guardianships.
Contact Our Custody Lawyers
Our Harrisburg custody attorneys will help you consider whether it is best for you to amicably resolve your custody matter through negotiation, mediation or collaborative law, or whether litigation is necessary. Regardless of the method you choose, our attorneys will work to obtain the best possible outcome for your family. To speak with an attorney, please contact us at 717-520-4400 to arrange a consultation.