The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee has been working this year to improve how the local courts handle child custody matters. Justice Max Baer explained that children often become victims as their parents become “entangled in conflicts.” The new method involves a parenting coordinator that mediates these conflicts to reach compromises that result from discussions that are not confrontational.
Types of Custody Awards
- Shared physical custody: Both parties may have the child reside with them for periods
- Primary physical custody: The child resides with one party for the majority of the time
- Partial physical custody: One party has physical custody of the child less than half of the time
- Sole physical custody: The child exclusively resides with one party
- Supervised physical custody: A third-party will monitor (supervise) the child during periods of physical custody with a party
- Shared legal custody: Both parties have responsibility for decision making on behalf of the child (education, medical, etc.)
- Sole legal custody: One party is exclusively responsible for making major decisions on behalf of the child
- Interim awards: Courts may implement temporary awards that relate to child custody, such as while the court proceedings are still underway
Standing for Any Form of Physical or Legal Custody (§5324)
Various individuals may potentially be awarded legal or physical custody of a child. It may include a parent, grandparent or someone acting in loco parentis to a child, meaning someone “standing in” as a parent. It may be a party that has some existing relationship with the child. This party must be willing to assume this responsibility and demonstrate a sincere interest in the child's well-being. Courts may seek to impose custody changes when the safety of the child is at risk.
Factors Considered When Awarding Custody (§5328)
When the court makes custody awards, their primary focus is what they feel is in the child's best interest. They will assess any safety concerns associated with either party or their household environment. Any history of abuse or concerns regarding drugs or alcohol is considered. The court will assess the ability of the parties to provide stability for the child in school and the community.
The court may consider where any siblings reside and assess whether the parties can provide childcare. The court prefers to award custody to parties that support continual contact with the other parent or guardian and members of the extended family. The court may consider awarding some type of custody to grandparents if in the best interest of the child. They may consider any prior relationship a party has with the child. They may contemplate how any potential custody arrangement may impact any parent-child relationships.
Consideration of Criminal Convictions (§5329)
The court may consider any criminal history that exists among the parties. Past convictions for crimes involving children are a major concern for the court. These may include offenses such as child endangerment, luring a child into a vehicle or any sexual assault or abuse. Criminal activity that suggests the child's safety may be at risk is closely considered. Examples include crimes involving violence, drugs or alcohol, prostitution, and more.
Lawyer for Child Custody Cases in Pennsylvania
Legal proceedings that relate to child custody, visitation, and other matters in the realm of family law can result in uncertainty and confusion. It is critical to retain the services of an experienced local attorney. Joseph D. Lento understands the difficulties associated with these cases and can be reached at (888) 535-3686 for a case evaluation.