Child custody is often the most difficult family law matter. In the majority of cases, child custody is the first priority of the parties. Child custody cases include two types of custody, the physical custody and legal custody of the child.
Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make major decisions about the child’s life including education, medical treatment, mental health treatment, religious upbringing, etc. Who maintains the physical custody of the child is usually one of the most difficult processes when parents separate. Parents often share legal custody and therefore share in the major decision making. When parents cannot agree on legal custody issues such as where a child should attend school, then the parties often ask for the court to intervene.
Physical custody is where the child lives and sleeps. Establishing a physical custody schedule is important. Custody is determined based on the best interest of the child. The best interest standard is defined by 16 factors the court must review when determining custody. Voelker & Colton, LLC will work with you to obtain an appropriate custody schedule. There is no one size fits all custody arrangement; each family must determine what is best for their children and the parents. If you cannot come to an agreement with the other parent, then Voelker & Colton, LLC will zealously advocate for you through the litigation process.
Physical custody can be shared with both parties having approximately half of the overnights with the child. Physical custody can also be in a primary/partial custody arrangement, where one parent has more than half of the overnights with the child and the other parent has less than half of the overnights. A party's custody can be supervised, which means the parent must have an adult present during all of his/her custodial time. Ideally, child custody decisions will be made without a Judge, because the parents usually know what is best for their children. Parties often choose to memorialize any custody agreement as an Order of Court in case there are disputes in the future.
In some instances Grandparents qualify for custody of their grandchild. They may be able to request partial, shared or primary custody depending on the circumstances. Grandparents should work with an attorney to make sure they are pursuing their custody rights properly. Grandparent custody cases can often be high conflict cases which is another reason that it is important to have an attorney.
The PA Supreme Court decided a case about the standing of Grandparents in custody cases on September 9, 2016. If you have a grandparent custody action, check to see if the new case law affects your case.
If your child will be traveling internationally with your ex, you should consult with a lawyer about where your child will be traveling. Not all countries will honor a Pennsylvania custody order. It is best to check with an attorney prior to the travel dates.
Additionally, it can be difficult to obtain a passport for a minor child that is subject to a custody dispute because a passport application must have both parents’ signatures or a court order is needed. If you are having trouble obtaining a passport for your minor child, contact our office.