Frequently asked questions regarding custody...
How is child custody determined by the court?
In January 2011, a new custody law took the place of the old Pennsylvania custody law. The statute added new considerations the court must address when making a decision regarding custody, and there are now 16 factors for the court to consider when awarding custody. It also clarifies who has standing to bring a custody action; in other words, who is legally able to file a complaint for custody. The statute is still being interpreted by Pennsylvania's courts, but it will have a direct impact on your custody case. You may read the new custody law here, but contact me today for a consultation regarding the ramifications of the law and your case.
When do the children get a say?
There is no set age in Pennsylvania as to when children get a say in the custody process. However, the new custody law provides that the "well-reasoned preference" of the child, depending on how they are able to articulate that preference, may be considered a relevant factor in the custody process. Further, the county that your matter will be heard in may have its own standards by which a child participates in the process.
Do we need to have a written custody Order?
Yes. Even parents who are very amicable and communicate well benefit from having a custody Order in writing. By having your agreement made an Order of court, parents are given a forum to have issues with the arrangement heard and addressed if necessary, and your custody agreement will protect both parents and the children from the strife that can arise when an agreement is not formalized in writing. Parents can keep their Order flexible, but know that their Order will control in the event of a disagreement.
What if I want to relocate?
PA's new custody law will control all cases brought before the court after January 2011. The statute specifically provides for a new method of procedure when a parent wishes to relocate. You can view the new law here. If you are considering relocating, or your child's parent is threatening to, you should read the new law carefully, but be sure to consult a qualified attorney to discuss the relocation process. Misunderstanding the statute or not filing the proper documentation could result in the court denying a request to relocate.
Can I get custody of my grandchildren?
Grandparents' custody rights are also controlled by the new PA law. While the new law clarified a lot of old language and opened some doors for grandparents seeking custody, the facts of your situation will control your matter. If you would like to discuss your Pennsylvania grandparent custody matter, please contact me and I would be happy to meet with you.
I am having issues with a Custody Order that has been in place for awhile. What can I do?
A party to a Custody action may file a Petition to Modify their current Order by citing reasons why adjusting the Order would be in the child(ren)'s best interest. If your Order has been in place for some time and is no longer a good fit, or the other parent simply won't cooperate with your Order, it may be time to consider modification. Since your Order is enforceable by the court, an action in contempt may also be available to you. Let's talk about what will work for your specific needs.