Protecting The Best Interests Of Central Pennsylvania Children
Child custody is one of the most difficult parts of a divorce. Making certain that your children receive the best care possible requires you to have child custody lawyers who will stand up in court and fight for their protection. Our child custody attorneys are the kind of lawyers who will work with you to protect your children.
Contact our offices in York, Shrewsbury or Mount Wolf to learn how we provide aggressive representation in custody matters.
How Does Child Custody Work In Pennsylvania?
The custody process varies a bit from county to county, but the first step is always the same. Your custody lawyer files a custody complaint or responds to a complaint filed by the other parent. After the complaint is filed, the parents normally attend a conciliation conference. A conciliation conference is a discussion between the parties to see if they can work out a mutually agreeable arrangement.
This conference is in front of a hearing officer as opposed to a judge. It is very important to have a lawyer with you at this conference. If you don’t have representation but your spouse does, the other lawyer will take advantage of your lack of representation.
After the conference and various other pretrial procedures, your case goes before a family court judge. There is no jury and you may agree to an arrangement prior to the trial. If the decision is left to the judge, he will focus on the best interests of the child. He will make this determination based on evidence presented to the court.
What Types Of Custody Are There?
There are two basic types of custody: physical and legal. Physical custody involves where the children will live. Legal custody involves making decisions about the children. This might include medical issues, where the children go to school and so on. The specific options are:
- Shared physical custody
- Primary physical custody
- Partial physical custody
- Sole physical custody
- Supervised physical custody
- Shared legal custody
- Sole legal custody
People assume that one parent will have custody and the other will have visitation rights. But in reality, there are many types of arrangements. Obtaining the result that is best for you and your children is what matters.
How Does Pennsylvania Handle Child Custody?
In Pennsylvania, the standard for deciding where the children will live is based on what the judge determines to be the best interest and welfare of the children. In making his decision, the judge will consider factors defined by statute and factors defined by case law. Some of the factors include:
- Preference of the child
- Violent or abusive conduct by one parent or a significant other
- Which parent encourages or discourages frequent and continuing contact of the other parent with the child or children
The analysis by the judge is gender-neutral, there is no presumption that the mother is the more suitable parent. Don’t assume that simply because you are the father you will be denied custody or that simply because you are the mother, you will receive custody. The key here is having a lawyer who will protect your rights to access your children, as well as make certain that your children have the result that is best for them.
Judges prefer not to separate siblings unless there are compelling reasons to do so. Also, keep in mind, there is no specific age in Pennsylvania that gives the child’s preference controlling weight. Instead, the judge will make a decision based on their perception of the child’s maturity level, intelligence and reasoning. The judge normally listens to the child outside the presence of the parents.
Can Child Custody Be Changed?
Custody arrangements are not set in stone. This means if there are changes in one or both parents’ situations, it might be appropriate to reconsider the custody plan. For example, if a parent should develop a drug problem, the other parent should seek legal counsel to make a change to protect the children.
Similarly, if one parent enters a relationship with a person who is dangerous to the children, a judge can and will make certain that the children are protected from that person. On the other hand, if one parent was denied custody or visitation, if there is an improvement and it is safe for the children to be with that parent, the judge can allow for this as well.
Our custody lawyers can help you, whether you are working out an initial agreement, are seeking to make changes, or need to prevent changes to keep your children safe.
Experienced Help With Child Custody
Neither parent should seek to be the winner or loser in a child custody matter. In the end, both parents must give up some amount of control. No longer will the child spend every holiday with both parents. Instead, the parents must work together to determine how best to make sure the child is able to have a relationship with both parents, if appropriate under the circumstances.
When you retain our child custody lawyers, we work with you to protect your children and to make certain that both their rights and yours are respected. Contact our experienced attorneys for help, today.