Pittsburgh Custody Lawyers - Allegheny County Child Custody
|Pittsburgh Child Custody Lawyer
there are two types of child custody; Legal Custody and Physical Custody.
Legal Custody involves the ability of each parent to make important decisions
in their child’s life. Legal Custody spans issues related to: education, medical care, extra curricular activities
and religion. Legal Custody is either sole or shared.
Physical Custody (Primary,
Partial, Shared, Sole and Supervised)
Physical Custody simply
involves with whom the child physically resides or is with at a certain time. Physical custody is often further categorized
as primary physical custody, Partial physical custody, shared physical custody, sole physical or supervised physical
custody. The terms are applied depending on the amount of time spent with each parent including overnight time. What had been
called "visitation" is now called supervised physical custody. The term "joint custody" is no longer used.
Best Interest of the Child
In Pennsylvania, the standard for reviewing child custody petitions or modifications has been "the
best interest of the child." When dealing with custody issues the most important concern is the welfare of the child
involved. Keep in mind, that generally, the child will benefit from having
both parents involved in their lives. In light of this, we always seek to resolve matters in the most reasonable way possible.
we strive to conduct meaningful settlement discussions and negotiation with the opposing party and their counsel. At the same
time, if your matter requires that we take a tough stance on a certain issue, or if we are forced to litigate some of your
claims, we will fight hard for your best interests, while keeping the big picture in mind.
Child Custody is an area which may be part of the divorce process, or it could involve unmarried parents seeking to establish, change, or keep current living
arrangements in place.
Litigation vs. Settlement
Litigation for custody is not always
needed if the parents can agree upon a custody schedule without requiring court intervention. However, it is often difficult to decide
what days and times each parent will have custody and how vacation and holiday custody will be divided. Accordingly,
often the parties will need to proceed through the various processes applicable in the county where they reside until a determination
is reached with regard to the custody issues. As noted above, in Pennsylvania, the court will consider "the best interest of the child" or
children when dealing with custody litigation.
Status Quo is a Latin phrase which essentially means "the existing state of affairs"
and is used in describing the current custody arrangement. The "status quo" is important in custody matters
since the existing situations not often disturbed if the child is thriving in the present circumstances. However, modifications
to custody are always permissible and we will zealously advocate for you in such instances where a recent separation or change
in circumstances warrant addressing or readdressing the custody situation.
Filing for Custody or Modifying Custody
initiation of custody proceedings involves submitting to several processes, and is not often resolved quickly. If the parties
do not agree on a custody schedule, the matter may proceed through one or more hearings and may ultimately require a full
custody trial before the matter is resolved. Custody can be one of the most hotly contested areas of domestic relations law,
and often takes compromise and agreement between both parents in order to provide for the child.
Allegheny County if there is no agreement among the parties to a new custody action, at a minimum you will
be required to attend an education seminar and a mediation. This may be followed by a conciliation; partial custody trial;
psychological examinations; judicial conciliation; or a full custody trial depending on the individual circumstances.
Compromise in Custody
want to obtain the most favorable results for you and your children, and that often means compromising in order to resolve
things more quickly, thereby keeping your costs down and reducing the amount of stress your family will have to endure. Unfortunately
when the parents do not get along, they are often unable to think clearly about what is really best for the children.
of what you may personally feel, the court will almost always rule that it is in a child's best interest to have both parents
involved in their upbringing. In most cases, the biological parents of a child will have to share in the lives of their children
until the child reaches the age of majority or graduates from secondary school. In addition, if the child is disabled
the support obligation may continue, sometimes indefinitely.
Pennsylvania Custody Law:
On November 23, 2010, Governor Rendell signed Act 112 of 2010 into Law. The Act essentially rewrote Child Custody law
in Pennsylvania. The law declares “it is public policy of this Commonwealth, when in the best interest of the child, to assure
a reasonable and continuing contact of the child with both parents after a separation or dissolution of the marriage and the
sharing of the rights and responsibilities of child rearing by both parents and continuing contact of the child or children
with grandparents when a parent is deceased, divorced or separated."
Under the new Act which took effect on January
Courts will be prohibited from assuming that custody should be awarded to a particular parent based solely on gender.
2) Contempt citations for willful
violations of custody orders will be gender neutral.
3) Consideration must be given to a comprehensive list of factors, including: Which parent is more
likely to encourage and permit frequent contact with the other parent; parental duties of each parent; the need for stability
and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life; assuring access to siblings and extended family;
protection for victims of domestic violence.
4) Judges must provide an explanation of custody decisions.
5) A framework will be used by Judges in making relocation decisions.
6) Relocation decisions will
require consideration of how the move will enhance the quality of life for the child and not just how it will benefit the
parent seeking to move.
7) Each parent must submit a parenting plan in cases of
contested custody, allow for appointment of a guardian ad litem or counsel for the child when necessary.
8) The list of criminal convictions courts may consider in determining custody has been expanded.
Additional Changes to Pennsylvania
As part of the sweeping changes to Pennsylvania Custody
law several key aspects of the child custody process have been affected. The new law specifically codifies the holdings of
various case law which had been relied on exclusively in the past.
* Now, there
are sixteen factors the court is to consider when determining what is in the "best interest" of a child. (See list
* Additionally, the issue of relocation has undergone wholesale changes
and now utilizes new forms and procedures whenever a move is desired.
Further, the issue of "standing" in custody matters has changed. * Other changes involve the revised use
of parenting plans and child guardians.
* Also noteworthy is the new ability
for the initiation of a custody proceeding while both parents continue to reside in the same residence.
§ 5328. Factors to consider when awarding custody.
(a) Factors.--In ordering any form of custody,
the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration
to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:
Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
(2) The present and past abuse committed by a party
or member of the party's household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party
can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
(3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family
life and community life.
(5) The availability of extended family.
(6) The child's
(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment.
(8) The attempts of a
parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are
necessary to protect the child from harm.
(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a
loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child's emotional needs.
(10) Which party is more
likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
(11) The proximity of
the residences of the parties.
(12) Each party's availability to care for the child or ability to
make appropriate child-care arrangements.
(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness
and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party's effort to protect a child from abuse by another
party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party
or member of a party's household.
(15) The mental and physical condition
of a party or member of a party's household.
(16) Any other relevant factor.