Child Custody Laws in PA
Child custody laws in Pennsylvania fall under two specific categories: physical custody and legal custody.
Physical custody is defined as the direct physical control over the child and the child’s daily activities.
Legal custody refers to the right of the parent to make major decisions for the child in areas such as medical decisions, religious pursuits, education and residency.
In Pennsylvania, parents can be granted 4 main types of physical custody: shared, primary, partial and visitation.
In many families, the physical and legal custody of minor children is equally shared between the parents. This arrangement allows parents custody for equal time throughout the year, and is called “shared custody.”
Primary and partial physical custody normally go together. In this arrangement, one parent retains custody for the majority of time throughout a calendar year, while the other parent takes physical care of the child for a lesser percentage of time.
The parent receiving less parenting time with the child is usually referred to as the non-custodial parent, who has partial custody.
Visitation can be sought or ordered when one of the parents cannot take contiguous care of their child. Visitation arrangements can be either supervised or unsupervised physical custody of the child.
Both parents are naturally and equally entitled to make major decisions for the children, barring a custody order that states otherwise. If parents cannot agree on a major decision regarding the children, they can look to the courts to settle the dispute for them.
Child Custody Relocation
One common dispute that arises between parents involving child custody is relocation. This normally happens when the primary custodian wants to relocate to another state or county away from the non-custodial parent, who quite naturally objects. This can trigger a court proceeding that may ultimately modify any custody orders already in place.
Custody laws in PA are strict with regards to relocation. Court forms and process must be used to notify both the court and the other parent of the desire to relocate with the child.
The relocation procedures and filing timelines must be adhered to regardless of whether the other parent consents to the move. There are additional laws in place for parents who are members of the military. You should always consult with a qualified family law attorney before attempting to get approval for relocation.
Fathers’ Custody Rights
In 2011, child custody for fathers became officially recognized as equal in right to a mother’s by the PA legislature which stated its “gender neutral” policy in evaluating who should get primary custody of children.
If the parents cannot agree to custody, the courts will evaluate who the primary custodian should be based on “the best interests of the child.” The criteria looked at will include many factors, and judges have a lot of discretion to make this determination. As a result, fathers’ custody rights have increased significantly within the courts.
Custody Lawyers With Offices in Pittsburgh & Ebensburg
If you need help modifying an existing child custody order in Pittsburgh, Allegheny, Westmoreland, or Cambria County; Or if you need to obtain a child custody order, please contact our attorneys for a confidential and free consultation.