Child Custody Lawyer / Attorney in Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, PA
Working through Legal Custody and Physical Custody with your ex-spouse
When parents are divorced, one of the most important issues to settle is how much time each parent will spend with the children and where they will live. It can be difficult to come to an agreement about each and every detail when two parents are sharing custody of the children. While many couples feel they simply cannot come to an agreement and that it would be better to rely on the family law court to determine a child custody arrangement, that is typically not the best way to settle the issue.
While family law courts have obviously seen several child custody cases, they don't have the most important tool available to make a good decision for your particular case; your years of knowledge and experience specific to your family. If, however, you and the other parent are unable to reach an agreement, rest assured you will have knowledgeable and aggressive advocates by your side in negotiations and litigation if necessary.
There are two main types of custody: legal and physical.
Legal custody determines which parent will make decisions pertaining to the child's education, religion and medical treatment. In the great majority of cases, legal custody is shared, often referred to as "joint legal custody".
Physical custody refers to where the children live and who provides day to day care for the children. Typically the physical custody is also shared depending on the situation.
There are four types of physical custody in Pennsylvania:
- Primary Physical Custody
In a primary physical custody situation, the child or children reside at one location. The parent who they live with is referred to as the custodial parent. While the children may not have a scheduled, court-ordered time with the non-custodial parent, typically the non-custodial parent still has generous visitation rights, which can still include having the children stay at their house overnight.
- Shared Physical Custody
Joint physical custody is also referred to as "joint custody" as both parents have the child or children living with them for some portion of time. This may be part of the week, month or year depending on how you and your spouse have agreed to share time.
- Partial Physical Custody
Partial physical custody gives the non-custodial parent the right to unsupervised visitation with the children. This might be a few hours each week, every other weekend, ect.
- Supervised Visitation
Supervised visitation is rare as it is typically only used when one party is a known danger to the child an example of which might be past physical or sexual abuse
The Best Interests of the Child
Should you have to engage in the litigation process, child custody in Pennsylvania is determined by the best interest of the child. If both parents are able to provide a safe, loving and nurturing environment for the child, physical custody may be shared. If one parent displays far more ability and interest to provide a good environment for the children, then it's more likely that primary custody will be awarded to that parent. A few of the factors that are typically considered by the courts when determining the best interest of the child when fashioning a custodial arrangement are as follows:
- The parent who is more willing to be reasonable and accommodating towards the non-custodial parent is more likely to be awarded primary custody.
- Status Quo: If one parent has already been providing the majority of the care for the child or children, and things are going well, the Court is typically not going to uproot the child and make a new arrangement.
- Keeping Siblings together
- A history of criminal activity or a track record of problems with drug or alcohol abuse.
- Preference of the child: The weight given to the preference of the child is typically determined by the age and maturity as well as the reasoning they give for their decision.
If neccessary, the attorneys at Saltzman & Gordon will represent your interests through the litigation process based on our in-depth experience in working through the most complex child custody cases.
Determining how you and your ex-spouse will share child custody is a critical element of getting your divorce finalized as well as planting the seeds for your new life. It's common for there to be disagreements and conflict around determining a custody arrangement, but it really is best for parents to work together to come up with a plan that works for everyone.