Comprehensive Representation in Custody Matters

When children are involved, the relationship between spouses does not end with a divorce decree. You will continue to have contact with your spouse regarding support, custody, and other parental responsibilities. It is best to keep the lines of communication open with your spouse so that your children are not the losers in your divorce.

Custody of minors consists of two distinct concepts, decision-making, referred to as legal custody, and time-sharing, referred to as physical custody. The court determines legal and physical custody based on an analysis of what is in the best interest of the child. There is a list of statutory factors that the court must address in making a custody decision.

Physical custody

Physical custody describes an arrangement through which both parents share time with the child. In some circumstances, the child’s custodian may be a grandparent or a third party such as a close relative. Physical custody arrangements can be as varied as the families that use it. There is no right arrangement that fits all families or age groups. If parents cannot agree on a schedule, they may mediate or litigate the issues. Each county in Pennsylvania has its own procedures for resolving custody, including some form of court-ordered mediation as a first step where a trained professional assists in reaching an appropriate agreement. If mediation fails, the issues proceed to a hearing or a trial. Sometimes the court will appoint a psychologist to conduct a psychological evaluation to assist the court and the parties in determining an appropriate custody schedule. The court may also appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the child.

Relocation issues

In addition to traditional custody disputes, some cases involve custody relocation where one parent wants to move to a distant location. There are specific procedural requirements that must be met in order to bring a relocation case to the court. Some cases involve disputes between jurisdictions where the court has to determine who will decide the custody dispute and which law to apply. Pennsylvania has complex jurisdiction statutes that dictate where and how cases may be heard.

Guidelines for custody

Some suggested guidelines for custody include:

  • Put your child’s welfare ahead of conflict with your spouse
  • Avoid involving your child in any conflict with your spouse
  • Help your child maintain a positive relationship with the other parent
  • Honor your custody schedule
  • If you are the partial custody parent, do not fill every moment with activities–your child needs quality time with you
  • Do not use your child as a spy
  • Strive to make joint decisions on major issues affecting your child
  • Use common sense in exercising your custody rights

At Strassburger McKenna Gutnick & Gefsky, our family law attorneys are experienced in all types of custody disputes and we are committed to obtaining lasting solutions to custody, whether through negotiation and agreement or through litigation. Contact Reid B Roberts at rroberts@smgglaw.com today to schedule an appointment with an experienced custody attorney.