Pennsylvania laws and child custody: What you need to know.

Child custody battles can get ugly. Anyone that doubts the impact these battles can have on all involved should take a look at Gossip Girl Star Kelly Rutherford's most recent picture and compare it to one from before she began her battle with her ex. Ms. Rutherford's ex received custody of the couple's children and moved them to Europe. The star has nearly bankrupted herself attempting to regain custody of her children.

There are ways to avoid this type of contested battle. Ideally, both parents can discuss the situation respectfully with the best interest of the children in mind. Regardless of whether you find yourself in a respectful situation or an all out battle, knowing the basics of child custody laws in your state can help you to increase the chances of success.

Pennsylvania child custody laws: What types of custody are there?

In Pennsylvania, the amount of time a parent or caretaker spends with a child and how major decisions that impact the child's life are made is outlined in a custody order. This document is signed by a judge and can be enforced in court.

There are two main types of custody, physical and legal. Physical custody refers to the time the child spends with the parent while legal refers to the decision making process. Physical custody is broken into five categories:

  • Shared. Shared custody refers to agreements that allow both parties to have physical custody during defined times.
  • Primary. This category occurs when one parent spends more than 50 percent of the time with the child.
  • Partial. The parent with partial physical custody spends a portion of time with the child, but that portion is never more than 49 percent of the time.
  • Supervised. If supervised custody is granted, the court monitors the time the child spends with the parents.
  • Sole. Only one party has custody of the child at all times.

Although there are many types of physical custody, there are only two types of legal custody. Parents either choose to have shared or sole custody when it comes to the decision making process.

How do I get custody in Pennsylvania?

The first step towards custody in Pennsylvania involves filling out a Complaint for custody. This is done at a county courthouse. The Complaint may lead to a hearing, which could involve each parent providing testimony on why the child should reside with them and evidence supporting each case. This could include the use of school records and witnesses.

Receiving a court order awarding child custody can be a difficult process. If you are attempting to receive custody, contact an experienced Pennsylvania child custody lawyer to help build your case and increase your chances for success.


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