How Do Custody and Partial Custody Work in PA?

October 26, 2016 / 12:00 am

Going through a divorce will almost always be a painful experience, and adding children into the mix only compounds that pain.

If you’re going through a divorce and think you may need a child custody attorney in Bucks County, the attorneys at Penglase & Benson are here to help.

One of the ways we can do that is by answering some common questions about child custody in Pennsylvania.

How do courts decide custody?

The judge will consider several factors when determining custody, including the parents’ work schedule, and abusive conduct in the past on the part of either party. Depending on the child’s age and maturity, his or her preference can be taken into consideration. In the end, the key consideration is what’s best for the child.

In Pennsylvania, the law says the child’s best interest is the most important factor in a custody case. The court will look at a variety of factors: the child’s preference, who has custody of siblings, which parent has served as the primary caretaker.

Still, every child and family is different, so it’s tough to point to a specific way in which the judge decides who has custody.

Is my child going to need to go to court?

It depends on their age and maturity level. The judge may ask to speak to a child, but often this doesn’t involve formal testimony. Rather, the child just meets with the judge in the judge’s chambers.

What’s the difference between the different types of custody?

Pennsylvania has four main types of custody:

  • Primary physical custody, in which one parent has custody of a child most of the time.
  • Shared physical custody, in which both parents have the right to frequent contact with the child or children. This is also known as “joint custody.”
  • Partial custody, in which one party gets the right to unsupervised visits: one day a week, every other weekend, etc.
  • In some cases, a court can order supervised visitation. This is only when the parent is considered a potential danger to the child, in cases of abuse or neglect. These visits are supervised by a friend or relative, or – in much more serious cases – overseen by a county welfare agency.

If my ex-husband/ex-wife and I share custody, who pays the child support?

It depends. If both parents make the same amount of money and have equally shared custody, the court may not issue a support order. If one parent makes more than the other, there will typically be a support order, even in cases of joint custody. Having a child custody attorney in PA can help you navigate this system.

How do grandparents factor into custody cases?

Pennsylvania law gives grandparents automatic standing to petition for legal and physical custody of a grandchild. In cases where it’s in the best interest of a child to be in their grandparent’s custody (in other words, neither parent is suitable), the court may award custody to a grandparent.

This applies to grandparents who have genuine concern for the child, who have an existing relationship that began with a parent’s consent, or in cases where the grandparent has spent 12 months essentially acting as a parent. The law also allows grandparents to ask for partial custody and visitation.

What if we can’t agree on custody?

If the parents can’t reach an agreement on custody, the court may order them to undergo mandatory mediation or education sessions. If those aren’t effective, the court may intervene.

If you need the help of a child custody attorney in Bucks County, contact Penglase & Benson. Our lawyers have more than 65 years combined experience in making sure your voice gets heard during your divorce proceeding. We’ll look out for the best interests of you and your children.