Custody in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is based on the best interest, welfare and safety of the child or children. The Courts will attempt to resolve the matter between the natural parents. However, the law does not require the Court to award custody only to the natural parents. If the Court finds that neither of the natural parents are someone the Court determines should have custody the Court may look to other agencies or family members to award custody of the child or children.
Custody is not an area where a parent should be unrepresented. There are a number of rules and procedures which must be addressed if the parent wants to be successful. A parent may represent him/her self in this area but the risks are very steep if the parent fails to follow a rule or procedure.
There are two areas to review as to custody and they are:
- legal custody
- physical custody
Legal custody is custody of a minor child which allows the adult individual(s) to make major decisions as relates to the child him/her self. Those areas would generally be in the area of religion, schooling, general medical care. Joint legal custody would allow both parents to be involved in these decisions. The law will not force a parent to be involved but the status of joint legal custody will encourage it.
Physical custody has two separate areas of discussion; they are full and partial physical custody:
Full Physical Custody:
- Full physical custody is awarded to the adult with whom the child is or shall legally reside. This adult will be responsible for the day to day decisions as they relate to the child or children.
Partial Physical Custody:
- Partial physical custody is what was formerly termed visitation and is when the minor child will visit with the non custodial parent or adult [that being the parent or adult who has physical custody] for either an agreed upon time or a time established by Court Order.
It should be noted at this point that custody is not dependent upon the payment of support by an obligee in this Commonwealth. Support and custody are totally and completely separate issues and you should not consider the failure to pay support to be a preclusion to partial physical custody.
The Custody Order awarding Partial Physical Custody to a parent or other adult does not require the parent or adult to take the child/children during the time set forth in the Custody Order. The only requirement under the Custody Order is for the custodial parent to have the child/children ready to be picked-up on the set day and at the set time. The law does not require nor force the non custodial parent to have a relationship with his/her child. What the law does is make the child/children available to the non custodial parent so he/she may have a parental relationship with the child/children. The custodial parent can not hold the non custodial parent in contempt simply because the non custodial parent never picked the child/children up on the set day and at the set time.
Failure to comply with a Custody Order from a Court of Common Pleas may lead to a finding of Contempt. This finding may lead to a fine, a change in the award of custody and may but very unlikely lead to imprisonment.
Custody Client Information Form this office employs to obtain all the necessary information prior beginning a custody action on behalf of a client. You should use this form to assist your attorney by having all of the information before discussing a custody action with him/her.