We know the law. We are good at it. And we truly care about our clients. What can we do for you?
Child custody can be the single most important important issue when couples divorce or unmarried parents go their separate ways. Both parents often want to be sure they have time with their children and the authority to make important decisions in their lives. When parents can’t compromise on visitation schedules or decision-making roles, it is up to the court to settle the matter. So how do judges decide child custody in Pennsylvania?
When most people talk about child custody they think of it as who is going to be the primary parent to their children. However, from a legal perspective, there are two different sides of child custody:
Legal custody determines which parent will have the right, and the responsibility, to make key decisions for your children. This isn’t about bed-times or whether a headache needs painkillers. Instead, it deals with the big-picture issues:
Your Pennsylvania family court judge can award this authority to one parent — sole legal custody — or order both parents to work together to reach these decisions — shared legal custody.
The other side of the issue is physical custody, which determines which parent the child will live with. Generally speaking, when a child is in one parent’s household, that parent gets to control the child’s day-to-day care and custody issues. This includes making sure homework gets done, arranging for child care if you need to work or be away, preparing food, maintaining the child’s schedule, getting them back and forth to school and extracurricular activities, and responding to any bumps or behavioral issues that happen along the way.
The family court judge can split physical custody a number of ways:
Most often, when a child custody issue goes to trial it is because both parents want to be the one with sole or primary custody of their children. When that happens, it is up to the court to decide what is in the “best interests of the child.” Even though you and your spouse or co-parent are the ones in the courtroom, the judge will be focused on the effect any proposed custody situation will have on your children and their health, safety, and well-being. To decide this, Pennsylvania law requires the court to consider 16 factors:
In applying these factors, the court is not allowed to favor either party because of his or her gender, and must consider the facts of your specific case. Your Pennsylvania family lawyer will help you develop your case to show why awarding you primary physical custody is in your child’s best interests.
Even when judges hear evidence on all 16 factors to decide child custody, they can still come up with an arrangement that doesn’t make sense for you and your family. There are so many moving pieces in a family’s custody and visitation schedule that it is often best for parents and their attorneys to create a schedule that works without court involvement. When you settle on a schedule rather than leaving it up to a judge to decide child custody, you can be sure your parenting time meshes well with your work schedule, maximizes the time you have at home to spend with your children, and takes into account the specific needs you and your child may have that the judge may not have thought to consider.
At Berman & Associates, our experienced family law attorneys know how judges decide child custody in Pennsylvania. We will help you establish your case and consider a custody and visitation schedule that makes sense for you and your family. We welcome you to contact us to speak with us about how we can help with your family law matter.
© 2020 Berman & Associates