Experienced representation in child custody matters
Child custody issues can take a toll on both the parents and the children in a family. It is therefore important to ensure that whatever custody arrangement is worked out is in the best interest of the children while preserving a healthy relationship between the parties. We know that the current child custody law in Pennsylvania can be confusing and intimidating. Maria P. Cognetti was instrumental in drafting the major revisions to Pennsylvania’s custody laws that went into effect in 2011, and she and her staff can help you understand the intricacies of this new custody statute. Cognetti Law Group is known for taking on complex custody cases, including those that involve mental health issues and high levels of conflicts. We keep you involved every step of the way, and you can be confident that our team has your children’s best interests at heart.
What does the court consider when determining custody?
Prior to the entry of a custody order, the court must determine what custody arrangement is in the “best interests of the child.” Factors that weigh into this consideration include, but are not limited to:
- Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party
- The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child
- The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child
- The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family and community life
- The availability of extended family
- The child’s sibling relationships
- The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment
- The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent
- Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child, adequate for the child’s emotional needs
- Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child
- The proximity of the residences of the parties
- Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child care arrangements
- The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another
- The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household
- The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household
The court may also consider other evidence presented if the court finds such evidence to be relevant or important to the custody consideration.
What is the difference between legal and physical custody?
There are two types of custody in Pennsylvania: legal custody and physical custody. A parent who has legal custody of his or her child has the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious, and educational decisions. Physical custody refers to the actual physical possession and control of the child. Like legal custody, one parent may have primary physical custody of a child, or physical custody may be shared.
What are the different types of physical custody?
The court may award any of the following types of physical custody if it is in the best interest of the child:
- Primary Physical Custody: A parent who has primary physical custody of his or her child has the right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of the time.
- Partial Physical Custody: A parent who has partial physical custody of his or her child has the right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
- Shared Physical Custody: When parents have shared physical custody of their child, each parent has significant periods of physical custodial time with the child.
- Supervised Physical Custody: When a parent has supervised physical custody of his or her child, during their custodial time with the child, an agency or an adult designated by the court, or agreed upon by the parties, monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.
- Split Custody: While “split custody” is not a legal term, the term is often used to describe a custody arrangement whereby parents with more than one child together split the children between the parents. Each parent retains primary physical custody over one or more of the children. For example, if the parties have two children, one of the children may reside with the mother while the other child resides with the father.
Does custody affect a child support obligation?
When parents share physical custody of the children, child support payments may be reduced. When the children spend a significant number of overnights during the year with the noncustodial parent, a rebuttable presumption exists that the noncustodial parent is entitled to a reduction in the basic support obligation to reflect this additional time. The attorneys at Cognetti Law Group can help you determine whether or not your particular custody situation will affect the child support obligation in your case.