Pittsburgh Custody Lawyer
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Under Pennsylvania law, legal parents are entitled to seek custody of their children
If you are a biological or finalized adoptive parent, then you can ask for legal and physical custody of your children when you and the child’s other parent are separated, divorced, or unmarried. You and your child’s other parent may devise a parenting plan on your own. Alternatively, you may go to court to seek full physical and legal custody of your children, or request to share one or both types of custody with their other parent.
As a parent, you are extremely protective of your child. You want to ensure you can build a healthy, loving relationship with your son or daughter as they grow up. That is why custody disputes can become complicated and contentious. However, this issue can also be carefully managed with your child’s best interests remaining the focal point.
If you have questions about what arrangement is right for you and your family, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer from Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC for help. Call (412) 471-5100 to schedule a free case consultation.
How Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC Can Help
You and your child’s other parent do not need to devolve into unnecessary arguments. Instead, with the help of an experience attorney, you can both remain civil and concentrate on an arrangement that will enable your child to flourish.
To learn more about child custody, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer at (412) 471-5100 as soon as possible.
Parental Rights in Pennsylvania
As a parent, you have rights and responsibilities regarding your child. You are required to physically care for them. If your son or daughter predominantly lives with their other parent, then at the bare minimum, you are required to financially support them. In addition to these responsibilities, you also have rights. You inherently have a right to be a part of your child’s life, and you have the right to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to how they grow up. These are concepts the law defines as legal and physical custody.
To obtain parental rights in Pennsylvania, your legal parentage must be established. This is rarely an issue for mothers who give birth to their child. However, it may be an issue if you are a father.
At Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC, we commonly address:
Additionally, there are times when you are a parent and may not be able to gain custody of your child. If you are a biological parent who voluntarily or involuntarily had your parental rights revoked, you are no longer eligible for custody of your son or daughter.
Child Custody Laws in PA
As a parent, you must understand that there are two types of custody in Pennsylvania. Your Pittsburgh custody lawyer can help you fight for both:
Physical Custody – Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23 §5322(a) defines physical custody as the actual physical possession and control of your child. Most parents think of physical custody as when their child lives with them at their home.
Legal Custody – The same law defines legal custody as the right to make major decisions on behalf of your child, including – but not limited to – educational, medical, and religious choices.
You may receive all legal custody for your child, or you could be required to share it with your child’s other parent. Legal custody can be split evenly, or it may be divided in a specific way. Similarly, physical custody can be granted to one parent or divided between the two of you. Legal and physical custody rights do not have to be divided the same way. You and your child’s other parent may share physical custody, yet one of you may receive full legal custody.
If you wish to fight for legal and physical custody of your child, you should speak with a Pittsburgh custody lawyer from Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC right away.
Types of Custody Arrangements
There are numerous ways you, your child’s other parent, or the court may arrange a custody agreement. The two general types of custody arrangements are:
Sole Custody – In this situation, one individual retains the exclusive right to legal and/or physical custody of a child.
Joint Custody – In this more common custody situation, each parent has some amount of legal and physical custody of the child.
Pennsylvania law discusses custody arrangements in terms of:
- Shared physical custody – When one or more individuals have the right to physical custody of a child, and each person has a significant period of actual time with the child.
- Primary physical custody – The right to physical custody of a child for a majority of the time.
- Partial physical custody – The right to physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
- Supervised physical custody – Time during which another adult or agency monitors interactions between a child and one of the parents.
- Shared legal custody – The right of more than one person to have legal custody of the child.
- Sole legal custody – The right of one individual to retain exclusive legal custody of the child.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your current parenting arrangement, or you wish to obtain a greater amount of legal or physical custody of your child, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer today.
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How to Get Custody of Your Child
Whether you and your spouse have separated, are officially going through a divorce, or you and your child’s other parent were never married, PA custody laws require one of you to begin the court process. To obtain custody of your child, you must go to court to have a mutually agreed upon arrangement approved by the judge, or have a judge decide your parenting plan.
You and your child’s other parent have the right to decide a child custody agreement yourselves. However, if you are divorcing or unmarried, you should go to court to formalize this arrangement. If you do not have your agreement formalized in a court order, then you may find yourself facing a custody battle in the future.
You may file a complaint asking for a certain amount of legal and physical custody of your child. If this is part of a divorce, it will be addressed in your initial divorce complaint. If this dispute is not part of a divorce, then it will be an independent action.
When you file the first legal documents, you are responsible for providing your child’s other parent with service of process. This ensures that they are properly notified of the court case. If your child’s other parent begins the legal matter, then you will be served with the documents telling you when to appear in court. If you suddenly receive paperwork about child custody or divorce, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer right away.
When a child custody dispute goes to court, the judge may require you and the other parent to go through mediation. This is an out-of-court process during which a mediator guides the conversation, enabling you and the other parent to make important decisions together. The mediator does not make any final decisions or have any ability to control the outcome. We do not provide mediation services, but are happy and willing to explain the process.
If mediation is not required, or if it fails, then the decision is put to the court. During a hearing, you and your child’s other parent can present the court with the amount of custody you each believe you should have and evidence of what you believe is best for your child. The judge will review all of the circumstances, consider a number of factors, and then hand down a decision. To fight for legal and physical custody of your child, you should have an attorney present during this process.
Temporary Child Custody Solutions
If you and the other parent are separating or divorcing, you may come to a temporary agreement yourselves or ask the court for an interim order. This agreement or court order defines the custody arrangement that is best for your child during your separation and divorce. It gives you and the other parent time to discuss a more permanent arrangement, or for the court to review additional facts and circumstances before issuing a final custody order.
To learn more about custody during separation, contact Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC today.
What is Involved in a Parenting Plan?
Pennsylvania courts have the final say on child custody in PA, and whether a parenting plan is within a child’s best interests. However, you and your child’s other parent have the right to develop a plan yourselves. You can also reach out to a Pittsburgh custody lawyer for help.
If you two decide to sit down and create a parenting plan on your own, it should include how you will handle:
- Making important decisions for your child
- Your child’s living arrangements
- Transportation between your homes
- Special occasions such as holidays and birthdays
- School, sports, and extracurricular events
- Parent-teacher conferences
- Summer vacations and other school holidays
- Travel in the U.S. and abroad
- Financial support for your child
Once you and the other parent have agreed on all of these factors and more, then you submit the plan to the court for approval.
If you and your child’s other parent do not wish to develop a parenting plan together or were unable to compromise on what you believe is best, then the decision regarding how child custody should be divided is left up to the judge.
If you need assistance with developing a parenting plan to present to the court, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer from our firm right away.
How a Pennsylvania Court Determines Custody
If a judge is going to determine your child custody arrangement, then you should speak with a lawyer about how courts determine custody. Pennsylvania law dictates that the court must determine the legal and physical custody arrangement that is in the best interests of the child.
To do this, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23 §5328 lays out several factors for judges to take into consideration, including:
- The child’s relationships with each parent
- The child’s preferences, depending on their age and maturity
- The child’s relationships with siblings and other family members
- Each parents’ availability
- Which parent is more likely to attend to all of the child’s physical, psychological, and emotional needs
- Which parent is more likely to allow and encourage continuing contact between the child and their other parent
- Whether any parent has committed abuse toward the child, the other parent, or someone within their household
There may be significant questions regarding what is best for the child. In this situation, you or the child’s other parent may request that a guardian ad litem be appointed. A judge can also decide to do this on their own. This legal or mental health professional gets to know the child and the family, observes the situation, and makes a recommendation to the court regarding what is best for your child.
If you have questions or concerns regarding the factors that will be considered in your case, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer from Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC for help.
Once a court orders a temporary or final custody arrangement, you and the other parent must stick with it. If your child’s other parent is routinely ignoring the parenting plan or court order, then contact an attorney to discuss custody enforcement. You may have the right to file a petition for contempt of court regarding the other parent’s actions. If the judge determines your child’s other parent is in contempt of the court order, then the other parent may be required to take parenting classes, cover your legal fees, and make up your missed time with your child at a later date.
Pennsylvania courts know that a custody order may not remain in your child’s best interests forever. As your child grows and their needs change, the custody arrangement may need to change as well. Modifying a custody arrangement may also be appropriate when you or the other parent’s circumstances are different than when the current order was put in place. Contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer today if you want to return to court and ask for a modification. We will review your circumstances to see if there has been a substantial enough change to warrant a modification. Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23 §5338, a court will only modify a custody order if it serves the best interests of the child.
If you are interested in a new custody arrangement because you are moving out of state and you want to take your child with you, then you will need to discuss relocation of a child with your attorney. Based on Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 23 §5337, even if you have sole physical and legal custody of your child, you must obtain the approval of the other parent or the court before moving your child to a new state. If the other parent does not approve, they can fight for the child to stay, which may involve them seeking more custody rights than they currently have.
For help in understanding the nuances that surround custody modification and possible relocation, contact a Pittsburgh custody lawyer immediately.
Multistate Custody Issues
If you and your child’s other parent live in different states, many issues can arise. First, you have to determine where a legal custody action is appropriate – in your state or the other parent’s state. If your child lives here in Pennsylvania and you live out of state, you may need to tackle your custody issues here with the help of a local family law attorney for child custody. If your child lives with you in Pennsylvania but the other parent is out of state, that parent may need to obtain an attorney and travel here for the proceedings.
Multistate custody battles become complicated due to the difficulty of sharing custody over a long distance. It is not possible for a child to simply go to a different parent’s home each week or to spend two-day weekends at another parent’s house. Instead, the custody arrangement typically focuses on the child’s summer or other school breaks so that you can spend longer periods of time with your child.
Additionally, travel arrangements and expenses for a child with parents in two different states must be addressed. You and your child’s other parent should discuss how your child will travel back and forth, which adult will provide appropriate supervision during this travel, and who will pay for it.