Pittsburgh Custody Lawyers - Allegheny County Child Custody
there are two types of child custody; Legal and Physical.
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.
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.
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.
That being said, it should be noted that any time
you proceed with litigation you're asking a third party to make important decisions about when you see your child and the
conditions under which such time is enjoyed. A wise judge once explained this process essentially by advising the litigants
that: the Court did not know either parent, their families, backgrounds or the child, yet because the parties could not agree
how to best raise their child it was the task of the Court to make a decision that would effect the lives of several people.
This decision was going to be made after each parent presented themselves and parenting abilities in the light most favorable
to them, while attempting to illustrate examples of why the other party was not an equally good parent. After hearing from
both sides over the course of many hours or days, the Court was then burdened with having to decide the circumstances of how
the litigants would enjoy time with their child, a situation where generally neither party would be entirely pleased with
the outcome since in most cases there has to be some level of compromise.
Bottom line, agreeing to custodial issues can be very difficult; you just need to decide if
you prefer to have a say in the outcome or if you prefer leaving the final decision to a judge/master who does not know you
or child and is simply trying to do the best they can when forced to decide how a child will enjoy time with each parent.
You should consider if your expectations
of a future custody arrangement are realistic in terms of the amount of time enjoyed by each parent. Additionally, consideration
should be given to whether such expectations are manageable with regard to the distances from the parents homes to one another
and the child's school or daycare. Consideration must be given to the start and end time of education and balanced against
the work schedules of either parent. When crafting your desired custody schedule it is important to request custodial time
that is both feasible for you to exercise and that is not overly burdensome to the child or other parent.
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.
Generations Program - Allegheny County Family
Court - First Floor 440 Ross Street
Allegheny County if there is no agreement among the parties to a new custody action the parties must proceed through
the Generations Program. 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.
The link to the Allegheny County Custody Case Flow Chart provides an overview of the various custody procedures which may apply to your matter.
Changes to 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."
Act which took effect on January 24, 2011 made
many substantial changes to how custody is handled in PA. The biggest change is that custody actions are now gender neutral, meaning that it is no longer assumed that a child should spend more time with
the Mother or Father. The matters are reviewed on a case by case basis and the presumption often begins that custody should
be shared equally if possible.
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. 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.
Any new custody complaint or modification requires that a "Criminal Record/Abuse History
Verification" be submitted to the court at the time of filing. In October 2013, this form replaced the "Affidavit
of Consent" first listed under the 2011 revised law.
These forms like their predecessors must be current as of the past 30 days and are often resubmitted each time the parties
are at court for a custody conciliation or hearing.
Factors when awarding custody.
Pa.C.S. 23 §5328 (a) lists the sixteen factors considered by a court in awarding
a decision in a contested custody case, recent case law has set forth that the trier of fact must specifically consider each
of the above factors in the final decision. Likewise, when presenting your case it is important to address each and every
single factor, however briefly in your argument to the court. That being said, the factors are all weighed differently with
some being more important than others. Each case is unique and it is up to the persons involved to present their case in the
light most favorable to them, while specifically offering reasoned support for asking the trier of fact to adopt their position.