Whenever parents separate, they need to know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to their children. If the parties are married and going through a divorce, resolving child custody concerns can be the most difficult part of the process. Every parent wants to see their children as much as possible, and the thought of losing time with them is distressing. However, the law recognizes that contact with the other parent is generally beneficial to the child as well. Coming up with a parenting plan that strikes the right balance requires patience, resilience, empathy, and realism. Kelly Family Law, PLLC helps parents navigate this difficult process. Drawing on more than 15 years of practice, I can help you put in place legally enforceable structures that protect your parental rights and advance the best interests of your children.
Pennsylvania law recognizes two separate types of child custody:
Each type of custody can be shared (joint) or awarded to one parent (sole). In all but the most extreme cases, Chester County courts generally award parents shared legal custody. So, parents share the right to make major decisions affecting the health, welfare, education, and religion of their children. Joint arrangements usually require discussion and consultation with the goal of obtaining a consensus.
Courts tend to favor joint custody arrangements whenever appropriate. It’s up to the parents to work out a parenting time schedule that is fair to each of them and positive for their children.
Cooperative parents are often able to negotiate or mediate a solution to their child custody issues by devising schedules for physical custody. There are several standard schedules parents frequently use, such as the “every other weekend” schedule. Here, one parent has the children Monday through Friday, and the other parent has them every other weekend, possibly from Friday evening through Monday morning. Another popular example is a 2-2-3, which allows one parent to have the children every Monday and Tuesday, while the other always has them on Wednesdays and Thursdays, with parents alternating the weekends. Of course, these are just examples. Many other schedules exist, and parents are free to devise their own.
Often, the most contentious aspect of a custody case is the schedule for shared physical custody. Fathers are requesting (and frequently getting) more time with their children than they had in the past. Many are recognized as capable caregivers who can be just as important as mothers to the well-being of their children. However, the most important consideration is finding a schedule that works best for all concerned, and this always requires compromise. For this reason, it is imperative to consult an experienced attorney who can help you resolve the case without surrendering your rights and agreeing to a situation that doesn’t best serve your children. If you cannot resolve your differences, you must ask the court to rule, which puts you at risk of an adverse decision.
If you must ask the court to rule on your custody dispute, the law insists the court focus on whatever arrangement would be in “the best interests of the children.” Statutory factors the court must consider are:
If your child custody dispute must go to trial, I advocate strongly for your rights by bringing to the court’s attention all pertinent facts that present your side in the most favorable light possible.
Following a divorce or the death of a parent, grandparents can have access to their grandchildren severely reduced or completely cut off. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law allows grandparents to seek a court order for visitation. Some circumstances under which a grandparent can seek visitation include:
There are other circumstances in which grandparents may seek visitation, or even custody of their grandchildren. If grandparents meet any of the necessary requirements to be pursue a custody action, the court will consider whether visitation is in the best interest of the child and decide the matter on that basis. In extreme cases, where parents are unfit and a child is in danger of neglect or abuse, grandparents can request custody of the child. I represent grandparents who want to maintain their loving relationship with their grandchildren.
Kelly Family Law, PLLC provides knowledgeable child custody representation for parents in Chester County and vicinity. My office is conveniently located in Exton at 600 Eagleview Boulevard, just off I-76 at the Downingtown Interchange. To schedule an appointment, call 484-899-9000 or contact my office online.