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Knowledgeable advice and skilled representation from Fisher & Fisher’s experienced family law attorneys can assist you in your pursuit of a fair custody arrangement. Over the last 30 years, Fisher & Fisher’s legal team has helped hundreds of families with custody and visitation issues in Northeastern Pennsylvania, including Monroe, Lackawanna, Northampton, Pike, Wayne, Carbon, and Luzerne counties. Knowing your rights early in the process is important. Call Fisher & Fisher today for a free consultation.
There are two basic types of custody in Pennsylvania.
Legal custody is the right to make major decisions for the child in areas such as health care, education, discipline and religion, and is shared in most cases.
Physical custody determines where the child will reside, and involves making day-to-day decisions for the child’s care and general welfare.
Generally, one parent will have primary physical custody, meaning that the child lives with that parent the majority of the time, and the other parent will have partial physical custody. Most parents have what is called “shared” or joint physical custody of their children, which means that the children divide their time equally between both parents.
The resolution of child custody and visitation disputes requires divorcing parents to act rationally in their child’s best interests at a time when they are facing the overwhelming stress of divorce. The attorneys at Fisher & Fisher Law Offices will use their experience and knowledge of child custody law to help you get through this difficult process. Call us to arrange a free consultation.
More about Child Custody in Pennsylvania…
Custody disputes usually arise when a couple with children decides to separate. While some couples immediately reach an agreement on short or long-term custody, others require court intervention for the intermediate or final decision. A custody order is a court order establishing the type of custodial arrangement that the parents will follow, and is entered either by agreement between the parties, or as the result of a custody hearing. The order generally provides a custody schedule, which may address weekly visitation, vacations and holidays, as well as transportation issues. The parties’ custody arrangement also can be established in a Separation Agreement.
Most counties in Pennsylvania have adopted mandatory mediation or conciliation prior to a judge hearing in order to encourage an agreement. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement through mediation or conciliation they can request a judicial hearing. Most Courts will order a custody evaluation prior to trial. A court-appointed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or a social worker, usually conducts this custody evaluation and makes a recommendation to the Court. The evaluation may include interviews with both the parents and the children; observation of the children; conversations with teachers; and possible psychological testing of both the parents and the children. When a custody evaluation has been ordered, the Court usually will not enter a final custody decision until the evaluation has been completed.
The court considers a long list of factors including:
- which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another parent
- present and past abuse, whether there is a continued risk of harm, and which parent can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child
- parental duties performed by each parent
- the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life
- availability of extended family
- the child’s sibling relationships
- the well-reasoned preference of the child based on their maturity and judgment
- either parent’s attempts to turn the child against the other parent (except where there is domestic violence)
- which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs
- which parent is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child
- how far the parents live from each other
- each parent’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements
- the level of conflict between the parents and the willingness and ability of the parents to cooperate with one another (again, excluding a parent’s effort to protect a child from abuse)
- the history of drug or alcohol abuse of a parent or member of a parent’s household.
- Once custody has been established through an agreement or by court order, parents may seek Court involvement to modify the established arrangement. The parent making the request must show a substantial change in circumstances to warrant such a modification.