Are There Different Types Of Child Custody In Pennsylvania?
Custody is essentially broken down into two categories; legal custody, and physical custody. The legal custody has to do with the decisions parents make regarding medical care, religious upbringing, schooling, etc. The physical custody has to do with who the child is actually living with at the time. Physical custody is normally either shared and split fifty-fifty (which is joint custody), or you could have one parent that has primary physical custody and another parent with partial custody for whatever the time is arranged either between them or by a court order.
What Sort Of Visitation Agreements Are Awarded In Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania has actually stopped using the word “visitation.” In the recently passed child custody law, they’ve done away with the term visitation because there was too much confusion about what exactly that meant and the different courts and different judges were interpreting it differently. The term is now “physical custody” and then it is for whatever the period of time or arrangement is.
If The Parents Mutually Agree On A Custody Arrangement Can The Court Still Refuse?
The parents can agree on whatever custody arrangement they like, and that can be done simply by agreement outside of court or it can be done by agreement through a stipulation that would be filed with the court. The two parents really are the ones that are free to determine the terms of the agreement. If the parents are going to agree, the court would not intervene unless it was some situation where for some reason it would be determined that the agreement was not in the best interest of the child.
The court encourages the parents to work things out and agree amongst themselves, and that is typically what is in the best interest of the child as well.
What Factors Does The Court Consider When Deciding On The Relocation Of A Child?
Pennsylvania has now codified the relocation issue by statute, so there is a specific relocation law that lays out the steps that any parent must take if they are intending to relocate with the child anywhere. Not just in another state, but anywhere that would have a substantial impact on the other parent’s ability to see the child. There are specific procedures that need to be followed. There is a notice of relocation that needs to be sent out to the non-relocating parent, and that must follow a specific format with specific information in it. It also needs to be accompanied with a counter affidavit, which gives the other parent the opportunity to object or not object to the proposed relocation.
If they do not object, they would NOT be able to object later; and if they did object, that would generate a court hearing on the relocation issue. That counter affidavit would need to be filed with the clerk of court in the county where the child resides.
Is There Ever An Age Where A Child Can Decide Which Parent They Want To Live With?
If you get into a custody battle and you have older children that will be testifying, the judges will take the testimony of a child into account when making that decision. However, the child’s wishes are not necessarily going to be the determinative factor, but it is a consideration that the court would look at.
Do The Courts Generally Favor One Parent Over Another In a Custody Case?
I hear that a lot from perspective clients, particularly fathers, who feel like perhaps the system is set up to favor the mothers. However, in my experience, I really haven’t found that to be true. Every case is so fact-specific and really depends on the individuals and their backgrounds rather than their genders. I have had plenty of father clients who have been able to achieve their goal, whatever it was, of custody when they came to see me, and didn’t feel as if the system was set up or prejudiced against them. For the most part, the judges really are looking for the best interest of the child; it’s not about favoring mom over dad in my experience.
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