Child Custody in PA
PRACTICE AREA DETAILS
ABOUT THIS PRACTICE AREA
Pennsylvania child custody cases can often be complex and frought with unique personal issues. Child custody is often the most contested issue in a divorce proceeding. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in the Pittsburgh area, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Butler county. Pennsylvania courts prefer parents to mutually agree upon a custody arrangement, however, if an agreement cannot be reached the court will determine the custodial arrangement based on the best interest of the child. There are sensitive issues that need to be addressed very early on. If you think that child custody may be at issue in your case, it is important that you obtain legal counsel right away. The attorneys at Fenters Ward have provided the following summary to help our clients begin to understand child custody proceedings.
HOW CAN AN ATTORNEY HELP ME IN A CUSTODY DISPUTE?
Divorce and custody proceedings are a stressful experience for anyone. It is important to avoid costly mistakes if you think that child custody may become an issue. We always tell our clients do not say anything that you do not want to be repeated in court. Our attorneys will assist you in maintaining healthy and beneficial relationships during the pendency of your case. Our attorneys can assist with the following:
- Negotiating an informal custody arrangement prior to a formal filing;
- Establish primary care-giver status to improve chances of an award of primary custody;
- Filing the Complaint;
- Preparing for mandatory mediation;
- Representation at conciliation; and
In the beginning stages, after a custody case is filed, the parents will have the opportunity to come to an agreement for custody arrangement without the court’s involvement. The courts facilitate this through the use of mandatory mediation and conciliation. Which is a less-formal negotiation process that does not involve a judge. Once the case is moved in front of a hearing officer or a judge, the court will have the ability to determine custody arrangements, regardless of the parties prior agreements. An experienced attorney can improve your standing by making efforts to secure your position early on. We work closely with our clients to understand their unique family history and work to achieve their specific goals goals at all stages of the case.
PENNSYLVANIA CHILD CUSTODY – THE BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD STANDARD
There are many factors that the court takes into consideration when determining when each parent will have custody of a child. Pennsylvania examines sixteen factors under 23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5328, and its guiding principle is what is in the best interest of the child. Some of these factors include:
- Which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between your child and the other parent;
- Which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with your child;
- The length of time the child has resided with one parent;
- The community relationships are best left in place;
- Access to extended family and support network;
- Past or present history of abuse, addition, or mental health issues;and
- Which parent more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of your child
In cases involving older children, the child’s preference is taken into account. In cases where the child is twelve years old and above, the courts will learn towards maintaining the status quo. Courts will strongly consider which parent is most willing to foster a relationship with both parents. Additionally, any history of abuse, criminal behavior or addiction will be taken into account.