Columbia County Child Custody Lawyer

Pennsylvania Child Custody Law

What Types of Custody Are There?

There are two types of custody: physical and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the physical possession and control of the child. Legal custody refers to the right to make major decisions (such as educational, medical and religious) on behalf of the child.

There are four types of physical custody: primary, partial, visitation and shared.

  1. Primary physical custody refers to the party who whom the child primarily resides.
  2. Partial physical custody refers to the right of the other party to take the child away from the primary custodian (usually for nights, weekends, vacations, etc.)
  3. Visitation is the right of a parent to visit (usually supervised) with the child at the child's primary residence or another location, but does not include the right to remove the child from the primary custodian's control.
  4. Shared custody is when the parents alternate physical custody of the children to assure regular, frequent contact with both parents.

Legal custody is most often shared between the parents, as both parents should consult before making major decisions on behalf of the child. It is rare that one parent is granted sole legal custody of a child.

How Much Weight or Effect Is Given to the Child's Preference?

The child's preference is one of many factors. The weight given to the child's preference will depend upon the child's age, competency, and the reasons, communicated by the child for the child's preference.

What Constitutes an Emergency When Seeking Immediate Custody of a Child?

An emergency exits when the child's life, health or welfare is in immediate danger.

What Are the Factors in Custody Determination?

The standard in a custody action is the child's best interest. Therefore, all factors and information concerning the child and the parties, which legitimately impact the child, are relevant. The weight given to each factor in any case will depend upon the unique facts and circumstances of that case.

When minor children are involved in a divorce, the Pennsylvania courts will do everything possible to help lessen the emotional trauma the children may be experiencing. If the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the issues involving the children, the court will establish the custody order at its discretion.

What If the Custodial Parent Wants to Move from the Area with the Child?

If there is a custody order in effect, the parent seeking to move with the child must file a petition for permission to relocate the child, and, if the terms of the custody order must change, a petition to modify custody. If there is no custody order in effect, the parent with whom the child lives should notify the other parent within a reasonable amount of time of the desire to move. If the non-custodial parent objects, the custodial parent will have to file a complaint for custody and a petition to relocate.

Before the child is permitted to move, a hearing must be held as to whether the move is in the child's best interest. The burden of proof is on the parent seeking to move the child. When deciding whether the move is in the child's best interest, the court will consider the reasons for the move, the impact of the move on the child and the moving parent, the reasons why the other parent is objecting to the move, and the availability of adequate, alternate custody arrangements if the move is permitted. If the non-custodial parent does not consent to the move, he/she should file a petition seeking to prohibit the planned move of the custodial parent until after a hearing is held as to whether the move is in the child's best interest.

What If the Custodial Parent Wants to Move from the Area with the Child?

If there is a custody order in effect, the parent seeking to move with the child must file a petition for permission to relocate the child, and, if the terms of the custody order must change, a petition to modify custody. If there is no custody order in effect, the parent with whom the child lives should notify the other parent within a reasonable amount of time of the desire to move. If the non-custodial parent objects, the custodial parent will have to file a complaint for custody and a petition to relocate. Before the child is permitted to move, a hearing must be held as to whether the move is in the child's best interest.

The burden of proof is on the parent seeking to move the child. When deciding whether the move is in the child's best interest, the court will consider the reasons for the move, the impact of the move on the child and the moving parent, the reasons why the other parent is objecting to the move, and the availability of adequate, alternate custody arrangements if the move is permitted. If the non-custodial parent does not consent to the move, he/she should file a petition seeking to prohibit the planned move of the custodial parent until after a hearing is held as to whether the move is in the child's best interest.

Where Should the Action Be Brought If the Non-Custodial Parent and I Live in Different State or Counties?

The action should be brought in the home state of the child. The is the state (or county) in which the child has lived for the preceding six months. There are exceptions:

  • If it is in the child's best interest that the action be brought in another state (or county) and the child and at least one parent have significant contacts within that state; if the child has been abandoned; or if it is necessary to protect the child from mistreatment, abuse or neglect.

If the child was absent from the custodial parent's home state because someone wrongfully removed or kept the child, the custody action can still be brought in the custodial parent's home state.

Contact a Columbia County family law attorney at the Law Offices of Kreisher & Gregorowicz at (570) 784-5211 for assistance with your Pennsylvania child custody matter.

Additional Information

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Law Offices of
Kreisher & Gregorowicz
401 S. Market Street
Bloomsburg, PA 17815

(570) 784-5211