Pennsylvania has finally put into place the new child custody laws, Act 112 of 2010. Although older cases are still governed by the older laws any custody case since January 23, 2010 will be governed through Act 112. Here are a few of the basic custodies that can be awarded and some of the newer laws that are factored in.

 

Physical custody is defined as “the actual possession or control of the minor child”. Physical custody can be “joint” or “shared” custody when both parents have the child for significant and equal periods of time. Physical custody can also be divided into primary/partial custody. The primary custodial parent will have the child most of the time and the partial will have the child less often. Sole physical custody has only one parent with physical custody but the other parent maybe granted visitation rights.Any decision on custody must be “gender neutral” and the decision of the courts must be explained in a written order and discussed in open court. If the custody is being contested each parent must submit a “parenting plan” and both parents may be required to attend counseling or have a guardian ad litem appointed for the child before custody will be awarded. Child custody may be sought while both parents still live together but they must prove they live “separately” in the residence and the order will not go into effect until one parent moves out. Not only is it mandatory to take previous felon criminal convictions of the parents into consideration but it now includes crimes such as driving under the influence and driving under possession of a controlled substance.Criminally history of all household members that will be residing with the custodial parents will be taken into consideration and they too will be evaluated by the court. If a custodial parent requests to relocate with the child the court must consider if it will enhance the life of the child not just how the parent benefits from the move. The court must also factor in which parent will encourage or permit contact with the other parent and continuous access to extend family, and which parent will provide stability in education and family life.

 

Although these new laws were enforced with the child’s best interest in mind these new factors can become very confusing and tedious to follow. This is especially true for families that have relocated to Pennsylvania and are divorcing because child custody laws vary from state-to-state. With all the new factors that are taken into consideration when it comes to such an important matter like child custody it is always in your best interest to hire an experienced divorce lawyer.

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