Child Custody Decisions in Pennsylvania

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 What Are Some Custody Agreements in Pennsylvania?

It is considered most efficient if the parents can agree on custody. An agreement can offer several different arrangements about where the children will reside. Here are two examples.

  • The children live with one parent, who possesses primary custody. The other parent may have partial physical custody (the right to take the children away from the custodial parent’s home for a limited period) and;
  • The children live with each parent for part of the time, for example, on alternate weeks. This is referred to as shared physical custody.

Additionally, most custody agreements will make major decisions about the children for things such as medical care, religious training, and education. This is known as legal custody, which may be shared by the parents or exercised by just one of them. It is rare for a parent to be denied all contact with their children. A parent who does not have primary physical custody will usually have the right to partial physical custody.

What Happens If Parents Are not in Agreement?

It is highly recommended for both parents to agree on custody. They should try to find a solution that is fair to both of them, but most of all best for the children. Some communities have mediation programs or counseling services that can assist the parents in reaching an agreement. If they still cannot agree, either parent may seek out an attorney for help in getting an agreement. If that does not work, custody may have to be decided by a court.

Moreover, a custody agreement is doable as long as both parents are willing to follow it. The advantage of turning a custody agreement into a court order is that the court can demand the parties to follow it.

Furthermore, If there is no custody order, both parents have an equal right to custody, and either can lawfully take physical possession of the child at any time. However, removing the child without the other parent’s consent can be held against you in court if that action was not reasonable. If the other parent takes the child and is unwilling to return the child, you can file a custody case and request the judge to order the child to be returned.

How Will the Judge Make a Child Custody Decision in Pennsylvania?

The judge will make a decision based on the best interests of the children. They will consider several factors which affect these interests. The judge will examine factors affecting the child’s safety. A judge will also consider which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continued contact between the child and the other party.

Moreover, you should be informed that as long as you have enough income to provide for the children’s basic needs, a low income solely will not prevent you from obtaining custody. The law mandates that parents be treated equally. Keep in mind that neither parent has an automatic advantage because of their sex. A judge, when requested by either parent, may modify a custody order at any time if it appears that a change would be in the best interests of the children.

Can Other Relatives Obtain Custody?

Yes, but only in special scenarios. Non-parents, such as aunts, uncles, or friends, can file a claim for custody if they raised the child. If the child is dependent (neglected, abandoned, or without proper care or control), a court may grant custody of the child to an agency such as Children and Youth Services, or in some cases to a non-parent.

What if a Custody Order is Violated?

According to the Pennsylvania legal group, a person who disobeys any custody order may be held in contempt of court or charged with a crime and may be fined and or jailed. Additionally, the judge may terminate custody rights from someone who has disobeyed the court order. In some cases, particularly in emergencies when the child’s safety is in danger, the police may be able to help.

What is the Process of Filing a Child Custody Order In Pennsylvania?

You can file for custody in Pennsylvania if your child has resided in Pennsylvania for the last six months in a row. But, there are certain exceptions to this rule. You may be able to file in Pennsylvania even if your child has not lived in Pennsylvania for the last six months if:

  • Your child is less than six months old and has lived in Pennsylvania since birth;
  • Your child is in Pennsylvania and it is necessary for an emergency to protect the child because you, your child, or the child’s sibling are subjected to or threatened with abuse;
  • Your child lived in Pennsylvania for at least six months but moved away from Pennsylvania, although you must still be living there; and she or he has not lived in any other state for 6 months in a row since leaving Pennsylvania and;
  • If you already have a custody order from another state and you want to alter it, you will likely have to file a petition to modify that order in the state where it was originally issued.

If you have recently moved to or fled to Pennsylvania, a domestic violence organization or legal services agency in your area might be able to help.

How Much Does it Cost to File for Custody?

The filing fee for custody varies in each county. You can contact your county’s Courthouse Locations, a domestic violence organization, or a legal services provider in your area. If you cannot afford the filing fee for custody, you can request that the judge waive the filing fee for you by filing a “petition to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP)” when you file for custody.

You will have to complete an affidavit of income and expenses and provide this with the form as well. Your county’s clerk may have IFP forms, or you may be able to obtain a form from a legal services provider in your area. The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania website also has county-specific forms available to access and download.

Can I Obtain a Temporary Custody?

The Women’s Law Organization describes the laws of Pennsylvania in obtaining temporary custody. A person who has the right to file for custody in Pennsylvania may be able to request an interim (temporary) custody order for physical custody, legal custody, partial physical custody, or supervised physical custody. The procedures for getting emergency custody may vary from county to county.

If you recently came to Pennsylvania from another state (and Pennsylvania is not the child’s home state), a judge may award you temporary emergency custody. This can happen if it is necessary for an emergency to protect the child because the child or a sibling or parent of the child is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.

These types of temporary orders usually last for an amount of time that a judge believes would be enough to permit you to go back to the child’s home state to file an appropriate custody petition there. It is generally best to seek the advice of an experienced custody lawyer if you believe that the situation in your case requires the court’s immediate intervention.

When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?

If you are residing in the state of Pennsylvania and need immediate assistance in a child custody case. It is highly recommended to find a local Pennsylvania child custody attorney to assist you with the process.

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