Pittsburgh Child Custody Attorneys
Helping Our Clients Obtain a Fair Child Custody Schedule
Child custody is one of the most important family law issues and is typically very emotionally charged. As a parent, you want the best for your child and that includes continual care and nurturing. During a divorce proceeding, you may worry about what would happen if your ex receives certain custody of your children and how their lives would be run differently as a result.
You have strong preferences about their education, sports opportunities, friends, eating habits and so forth. If you have been worrying about child custody, you don't have to any longer! We can answer any of your questions, guide you through the entire process and commit to keeping your best interests at heart while handling your case. Child custody discussions can quickly turn contentious between parents. In dealing with this matter, Pennsylvania courts will make their decisions based on what is in the best interests and welfare of the children involved.
A dispute over child custody may be one of the most important events you will ever face as a parent. Contact our office at (412) 563-5000 or complete our online contact form to speak with an experienced Pittsburgh child custody and visitation attorney today.
The Two Basic Forms of Custody in Pennsylvania are Legal Custody and Physical Custody
The two basic forms of custody in Pennsylvania are legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody is the ability to make important life decisions for your children, including decisions involving schools, doctors, churches and extracurricular activities. Legal custody is most often shared, meaning that both parties are entitled to share the decision-making process and to receive information about their children.
Legal custody is often easy to obtain and difficult to maintain. It often requires more vigilance and care to maintain than other custody issues.
Physical custody determines which parent or guardian physically cares for the children on a schedule. Physical custody is counted by overnights. If the parties have an equal number of overnights, that is called shared physical custody. If one party has most of the overnights, they have “primary” physical custody while the other parent has “partial” physical custody.
Parties do not need to have a custody order, but it is usually a good idea to have an order because you can always do something different from the order so long as both parties agree to do so.
A custody order can be entered through agreement of the parties (a “consent” order) or through a litigation.
Among the many issues often addressed in a custody order are: (a) legal custody; (b) a physical custody schedule; (c) a holiday custody schedule; (d) a vacation custody schedule; (e) transportation of the child; (f) telephone/facetime contact; and (g) emergencies.
It is vital that you have an experienced and skilled attorney draft your custody order. A properly drafted custody order can preclude needless custody fights and costly litigation for a litany of issues.
As if January 2011, Act 112 of 2010 has been put into effect. This law states the following:
"It is public policy of this Commonwealth, when in the best interest of the child, to assure a reasonable and continuing contact of the child with both parents after a separation or dissolution of the marriage and the sharing of the rights and responsibilities of child rearing by both parents and continuing contact of the child or children with grandparents when a parent is deceased, divorced or separated.”
This law was passed with the goal of breaking down previous assumptions made by the court in custody cases, which included:
- A parent has a right to their children over any third-party individual
- The child's gender created a preference between two parents (for instance, that a girl would want to remain with her mother)
- The assumption that one parent was a better choice to be awarded custody to, rather than adopting a co-parenting model
- The assumption that continual contact with both parents after a divorce, was always in a child's best interests (which is not always true)
Factors that will be considered by the court before awarding custody include the following:
- Which parent is more likely to encourage interaction with the other parent
- Parental duties of each parent
- The need for continuity and stability in a child's education, community life and family life (with reference to siblings and extended family)
- Protection for victims of domestic violence
Best Interests of the Child
Courts will decide custody issues based on what is in the best interests of the child or children. To do this, they will consider many factors which must be presented to the court.
Factors that often affect child custody include:
- Who has been the primary caregiver for the child
- The child's relationship with each parent
- The child's preference if old enough to form an opinion
- Financial status of each parent
- Age and number of children
- How to stabilize the child's school and social life
As these factors change in the years following a divorce, it may be necessary to seek a modification of child custody. If you are involved in a custody issue that requires litigation, it is important that you are represented by a capable family law attorney in Pittsburgh who is experienced with this type of litigation.
Child Visitation and Your Parental Rights
You have parental rights that are protected under state law. When two parents are separated or divorced, you do not lose you rights to access to your children, whether you are the mother or the father. There can be serious problems that arise after a divorce is final, such as one parent consistently presenting reasons why the children are not available for the court-ordered visitation time. Do you have any concern about visitation and access to your children? At Rosen Family Law Group, we can help. With nearly 20 years serving the Pittsburgh community in all family law matters, we can help you to resolve any issue related to child visitation and parental rights.
What is Parental Alienation?
In some cases, one parent will be engaged in parental alienation. A parent that belittles the other in front of the children can create a situation in which the children now refuse to visit. If this is an issue for you, and you are being told the children "refuse to visit" it is time to discuss the matter with an attorney. The court does not look kindly upon parents that make an effort to alienate the children from the other parent, and if it can be established and presented to the court, the parent engaged in this activity could be held accountable, and could even lose custody.
Assistance in Child Custody & Visitation Disputes
In child custody battles in Pennsylvania, parents are required to attend custody education classes as well as mediation sessions before continuing to court, all to elevate the interests and welfare of the children involved before the differences of combative parents. In making a decision, the court may consider such factors as the child's preference, each parent's ability to provide for the child's physical and emotional well-being and whether either parent has a history of abusive or criminal behavior.
The court may award joint custody or sole custody to one parent, depending on what is best for the child or children. Because the issue of child custody can be divisive and difficult, we urge you to consult with our offices about your situation. Our firm believes that everyone deserves the chance to have their rights represented, that any situation can be ironed out peacefully, and that our children should come first. We operate according to the following principles- trust, integrity, compassion, and hope.
What are you waiting for? Contact a Pittsburgh divorce attorneys from our firm today!