Sections 5321, 5322 & 5323 of Act 112 are, essentially, preliminary provisions.
In other words, Sections 5321-5323 lay the groundwork for the more substantive provisions that will be analyzed in upcoming blog posts.
Section 5321 just states that Chapter 53 "applies to disputes relating to child custody matters".
Section 5322 defines 16 words and phrases:
5. Legal Custody
6. Parental Duties
7. Partial Physical Custody
8. Physical Custody
9. Primary Physical Custody
11. Shared Legal Custody
12. Shared Physical Custody
13. Sole Legal Custody
14. Sole Physical Custody
15. Supervised Physical Custody
Most definitions are unsurprising and follow current practice. But some definitions could be important.
For example, "Relocation" is defined as "A change in the residence of the child which significantly impairs the ability of a nonrelocating party to exercise custody rights". This definition will likely lead to controversies over whether a particular move would cause a "significant impairment" to custody rights. But this vagueness may be unavoidable, because a mileage radius or a change of school districts (or counties) cannot always determine whether someone's custody rights are being "significantly impaired".
Also, nuances in the language of any definition may lead to unexpected results in future litigation.
Section 5323: 5323 largely concerns the formal elements a court must include in decisions and orders. Section 5323 is divided into sub-parts. The more significant sub-parts include:
5323(d): Reasons for award: The court shall delineate the reasons for its decision on the record in open court or in a written opinion or order.
Previously, some custody decisions did not include a rationale. Now, the Judge must lay out the reasons for his/her decision in a written opinion or verbally in court.
5323(e) Safety conditions. The court must now order "safety conditions" when there is an "ongoing risk of harm" from a party receiving custody. This is often done anyway, but now must be done every time. Also, this framework for safety conditions may influence some courts when drafting orders.
5323 (h) Parties in the same residence. Parties living in the same residence may seek relief under this chapter but any custody order under such a circumstance shall be effective only upon (one party leaving the residence). So, in cases of continued cohabitation, this provision gives guidance on pursuing custody actions and the effectiveness of custody orders. Continued cohabitation has become more common in the present economy and can be tough on everybody.