When parents decide to divorce, many issues will need to be resolved concerning the care and upbringing of any minor children. Child custody is one of the most emotional parts of any divorce case that involves a family. That is why it is essential to retain the services of a family law attorney that can fight for the future of your family when so much is on the line. Additionally, you may find that taking the route of mediation is particularly beneficial when determining child custody. Our firm will be happy to help you and your former spouse reach a child custody agreement that suits you both. If you require strong legal representation from a skilled and compassionate team of divorce mediation attorneys, contact Ilkhanoff & Silverstein today to discuss your case.
Types of Child Custody in Pennsylvania
In the traditional sense, many parents believe that seeking child custody means that one parent would receive primary custody, meaning that they would be the custodial parent and the other would be non-custodial. This, however, has shifted in modern times as studies have shown that children benefit from having constant and reliable contact with both parents.
This has ultimately developed into what is known as “joint custody.” Should joint custody be awarded, both parents will be recognized as custodial parents and will share the parenting responsibilities equally. This includes both physical and legal custody, although these can be independent of one another.
When a spouse has physical custody, he or she provides the child with daily care. Both legal and physical custody can also be awarded to a single parent. In most cases, the court will favor joint custody, however, in which both parents are actively involved in child-rearing activities.
The types of child custody recognized by Pennsylvania include:
- Joint legal custody: In this situation, both parents are given shared responsibility in making decisions regarding the child from religion to education. However, the child typically resides primarily with one parent.
- Shared physical custody: Should this occur, the child splits their time between the two residences of their parents. At a minimum, the other parent must have 35% of their time.
- Combination: This is a unique solution for families to determine what works best, coming up with a unique combination of joint legal custody and shared physical custody.
Factors Considered in Child Custody
When divorcing parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody, the matter is decided by the court. Various factors will be taken into consideration when determining which type of custody that will be granted, including, but not limited to:
- What is in the best interests of the child
- The age of the child
- The child’s relationship with each parent
- Each parent’s financial situation
- What the child prefers
If a parent has a history of child endangerment, abuse, or maltreatment, custody will most likely be awarded to the other party. Many times both parents will be given joint legal custody, while one spouse will be designated the primary custodian and the other will be given visitation rights. Ilkhanoff & Silverstein is a family law firm that has helped many divorcing parents work out child custody and support agreements.
Enforcing Child Custody
As a parent, you have the right to maintain access to your children and to be involved in their care and upbringing. There is little sympathy for a parent who is involved in alienating children or who is continuously interfering with the court-ordered visitation or joint custody orders. Unfortunately, some parents use the children to “punish” the other parent and may frequently fail to adhere to the court-ordered parenting time to take place, or conversely, to come and pick up the children at the time ordered, or show up at all. Frequent violations can be addressed through the courts, and pressure brought to get these issues under control.
Can Custody Be Modified?
Child custody involves both legal and physical custody. After custody has been determined, over time there may be a change in circumstances that will require a modification to the original custody agreement. Any changes in custody must be reviewed and approved by the court. The court will agree to a modification if there is a valid reason for the change and if it is in the best interests of the child.
Child custody agreements can be modified if circumstances significantly change. These changes can include:
- Loss of employment
- Any changes in work schedule
Changes in Pennsylvania Child Custody Law
In the state of Pennsylvania, early in 2011, legislation that was a decade in the making officially was passed into law. There are several different aspects of the law, however, one of the most important is that it is believed to turn the law into a more modern interpretation of child custody. For example, decisions regarding custody must now be considered gender-neutral.
Other changes include:
- Judges are now required to explain the decision;
- There is now a rebuttable presumption that parents be given custody;
- Notification of relocation is now required; and
- The criminal history of all household members of custody petitioners will be considered
All of these alterations and additions change the way that the game is played. Therefore, it is very important that if you are currently facing a custody battle that you have a divorce lawyer on your side who is up-to-date on all laws and is prepared to provide you with the high-quality and caring representation you deserve.
Mediation May Be A Better Alternative
Child custody is one of the most hotly-contested issues in divorce, which is why it may be best to hire an experienced child custody mediator to help both you and your spouse reach a child custody agreement outside of the courtroom setting. When parents go through mediation to determine custody matters, they are able to co-parent more effectively in the future due to their willingness to communicate throughout the mediation process. Not only can this save time and money in the long run, but it can also teach your children how to honestly and rationally compromise with another person, despite any differences you may have.
Contact a York County Family Law Attorney
We know your children’s welfare is important and we will do everything possible to ensure their future well-being. Contact an experienced divorce mediation attorney at Ilkhanoff & Silverstein for qualified assistance with child custody, support, and visitation agreements.