Obtaining custody of your children is a very emotional and stressful time. The process is often subjective and confusing. Please find a brief and general overview of the custody process below. This is not meant to be an all-inclusive discussion of the process or law. It is important you speak with an experienced and trusted custody attorney before beginning the custody process. Feel free to contact our custody attorneys at 844-815-9632 or submit a Contact Us form and we will contact you.
What is Custody
In Pennsylvania, we recognize two types of custody; Legal and Physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make the major decisions (medical, religious, educational, etc.) that affect the child’s best interest. Physical custody consists of the possession and physical control of the child. Shared legal custody is when the parents share the rights and responsibilities of rearing the child.
To determine custody the court or conference officer will examine a few factors in determine what is in the best interest of the child. The court may look at the fitness of each parent, characteristics of the proposed home, preference of the child (depending on age), and any intent to relocate.
When addressing the fitness of the parent, all factors are relevant. This includes: morality; substance abuse; criminal record; mental disorders; evidence of neglect and abuse; and promoting contact between the parties. Similarly, when addressing the proposed home, all characteristics may be relevant. This may include: all individuals residing in the home and their behavior; conditions of the home; living space for the child; and the safety of the child.
Modifying Custody Orders
If there is a custody order in place, a parent may petition the court and request a change or modification of that order. To obtain a modification, you must show that there has been a substantial change in circumstances; however, if modifying the custody order is in the best interest of the child, then there is no need to establish a substantial change in circumstances. Again, the main focus of the court will be on what is in the best interest of the child.