Divorce is an arduous process, made even more difficult when children are involved.
One of the key questions concerning children and divorce is “Who will get custody?” It’s likely to be a major sticking point between you and your spouse during the proceedings. With that in mind, we thought we would try to answer some of the most frequent questions connected to custody and partial custody in Pennsylvania.
What’s the difference between “custody” and “partial custody?”
Custody in Pennsylvania falls into three main categories:
- Primary – One parent has custody of the child/children nearly all the time.
- Shared – Also known as “joint custody,” this is a situation where a child divides their time between parents.
- Partial – One parent has custody, but the other parent has the right to unsupervised visits, whether that’s on weekends, a few days a week, etc.
In cases where the court determines a parent may be a danger to a child – situations where there is a history of abuse or neglect – a judge can order supervised visitation, overseen by a friend or relative or – in extreme cases – a social services worker.
There are also cases where –after a custody complaint has been filed – a person can ask for interim custody. In most cases, an interim custody order will not grant more than partial custody, as the court will want to make sure each party has time with their child without disrupting the custody process.
What happens when two people can’t agree on custody?
If the parents can’t come to some sort of agreement on custody, a judge can order them to undergo mediation. If that doesn’t work, the court may intervene and decide a custody arrangement.
In cases of shared custody, who pays for child support?
There’s no easy answer to this one. In cases where both parents make the same amount of money and both share custody, the court may not issue a support order. But if one parent makes more than the other, the court could order them to pay child support, even in cases of shared custody.
How do courts decide who gets custody?
It all comes down to what’s best for the child. That isn’t just a philosophical argument: it’s state law. In Pennsylvania, courts must consider the child’s best interests as the crucial factor in a custody proceeding. Courts look at which parent has served as primary caretaker, where other siblings are living, and the child’s preference.
Still, every case is different, and the judge will also look at other factors, including both parents’ work schedules, the age of the child, and abusive conduct in the past.
Will my child need to go to court?
The judge may want to get your child’s input, but this often doesn’t involve them testifying in court, but rather meeting with the judge in their chambers.
Do my in-laws have any say in who gets custody?
State law gives grandparents automatic standing to ask for legal custody of grandchildren, and allows grandparents partial custody and visitation rights. The court can award custody to grandparents in cases where they find neither parent is a suitable guardian.
If you need the services of a child custody attorney in Bucks County, contact Penglase & Benson. Our firm has spent years making sure our clients are heard during their divorce proceedings. We can make sure your interests – and those of your children – are well represented.