Child custody cases are some of the most challenging types of family law cases we handle, and often the most contentious. It is best if the parents can agree on an appropriate custody schedule which takes into accout the particular needs of the children as well as the parents. Most courts have actually designed their court custody procedures in a way to encourage settlement on custody matters to avoid a trial.
However, when parents are unable to reach an agreement, how do the courts make a custody determination? There are two main types of custody, legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions on behalf of the child, such as, what medical provider should the child go to, or which school district the child will attend. Many judges have a preference for the parents to share legal custody and to communicate with each other and so that they can come to agreements on these major issues. Often parents are asked by the court to engage in co-parenting counseling when they have trouble agreeing on these major decisions.
Physical custody is the amount of actual time the child spends with each party; if one party has “primary” physical custody, that is the person the child spends a majority of the time with, and the party with “partial” physical custody has physical custody for less than the majority of the time. “Shared” physical custody means that the child spends nearly equal (but not necessarily 50%) time with both parties.
In making legal and physical custody determinations, PA law requires that judges consider the best interests of the children. To determine the children’s best interests, judges must analyze each case based on the 16 best interest factors that are provided for in the PA custody statute. The factors include but are not limited to the child’s need for stability and continuity, which parent is most likely to attend the daily needs of the child, and which parent is more likely to foster contact with the other parent.
Relocation disputes arise when a party wants to move so far away with the child(ren) that it could substantially impact the non-relocating party’s ability to exercise their custody rights, even if the non-relocating party only has partial custody. So when does a potential move arise to the level of “relocation?” It is obviously relocation when a party wants to move from Pennsylvania to the state of Texas with the children, but sometimes a relocation dispute arises when a party wants to move across town. There are many factors that must be taken into consideration when determining whether a move qualifies as relocation, thus it is imperative for the relocating parent to see a child custody lawyer PRIOR to moving.
There are specific steps and specific time frames which must be followed before relocation, whether there is an existing custody order or not. If you relocate without following the required steps under the law, you could lose physical custody of your child. If you are the parent who is resisting the plans of the other party to relocate with the child, you have important rights which must be exercised promptly.
Grandparent custody rights
Not all grandparents are entitled to request custody time with their grandchildren, but there are specific situations in which they are entitled to seek custody or custody time. Whether you are the grandparent looking to legally establish your right to see your grandchild, or a parent who wants to stop a grandparent from intervening, we can explain your rights and help you through the process.
We understand that child custody is highly emotional and difficult for parents to deal with and understand, but we are here to help guide you through this process. We have extensive experience in custody litigation, from amicably working out custody agreements to litigating custody through trial.