Pennsylvania Child Custody Attorney
Often the most sensitive and emotional aspect of a divorce is child custody.
While clients may be able to “brace themselves” for the emotions involved in a custody dispute, they are unable to gauge how their children will react. I approach custody disputes with the simple philosophy that both parents should act in the best interests of their children. Parents should try to find common ground with one another and use those things they have in common to better the lives of their children.
In Pennsylvania, a custody action is initiated with the filing of a Custody Complaint. Though the rules vary by County, upon the filing of a Custody Complaint both parties will be ordered to attend a Parenting Class. Both parents are also required to attend a Custody Mediation where the parties will appear, without their attorneys, and attempt to reach a resolution to the Custody case with the assistance of a 3rd party Mediator. If the parties reach an agreement while meeting with the Mediator, then the Mediator can draft the agreement. If the parties do not come to an agreement at Mediation, the case will proceed to a Conciliation Conference.
Some Common Questions About Child Custody in Pennsylvania
What happens at a custody Conciliation Conference?
The parties attend the Conciliation Conference with their attorneys, and it is held in the presence of a Custody Master, or “Conciliator.” At the Conference, both the parties and their attorneys will have the opportunity to address the Master and explain the issues that exist in the case. The Conference is not like a trial, as there is no Court Reporter present and there are no witnesses or formal testimony. Depending on which County is your venue for your Custody matter, the Master may enter a Temporary Order for Custody at the conclusion of the Conference. The Order may simply set forth a Custody schedule and not contain any special provisions. Alternatively, the Master may enter an Order directing the parties to attend co-parenting classes, undergo psychological evaluations, and/or come back to Court for a follow up Conference at a later date.
What goes in a custody order in Pennsylvania?
A custody order will have two main components: legal custody and physical custody. Legal Custody is the right to make decisions regarding the child’s welfare, such as decisions regarding religion, medical treatment, and extra-curricular activities. Typically the parties will have “shared legal custody,” meaning that they share the responsibility for these decisions. Physical Custody represents the actual time that a parent spends with their child. The parties may share custody of the children equally. Otherwise, the party who has physical custody more than 50% of the time will have “Primary Physical Custody,” and the other party will have “Partial Physical Custody.”