Child custody cases are one of the most complex and emotional categories of litigation. Since the facts of each case and the background of each family are different, each custody case is truly unique. Before anyone commences a custody action or responds to the filing of another party, it is important to understand the framework of how custody matters are resolved and what alternatives to litigation are available. When choosing an attorney, select representation that will work closely with you in order to help you identify and articulate your objectives, develop a sound understanding of your rights and obligations under the law, and execute the legal strategy that is right for your goals and circumstances.
Child custody litigation can be a lengthy process since the court has to understand many aspects of the child’s life before it can issue a decision. Judges are required to rule on child custody issues according to the best interests of the children involved, and they must make detailed findings of fact that demonstrate a careful consideration of the factors that Pennsylvania law deems most important. Those factors are:
(1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
(2) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
(3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
(5) The availability of extended family.
(6) The child’s sibling relationships.
(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
(8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
(10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
(11) The proximity of the residences of the parties.
(12) Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
(15) The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
Once a custody schedule is in place, there are a variety of management tools available that can help set parents up for successful co-parenting and smoother transitions between homes including online family calendars and centralized communication systems.
Whether your case is suitable for early resolution through compromise or mediation, or whether the specific details of your situation make it likely that your child custody dispute will need to be resolved by the judge, our attorneys are here to assist you. We are acutely aware of the fact that child custody cases are frequently highly charged and extremely emotional. Our family law group is focused on providing strong, sensitive, and realistic representation that is designed to assist our clients in reaching resolution in these difficult matters.