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Experienced Child Custody Lawyers in Camp Hill & Harrisburg, PA

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Of the many issues that must be resolved with your family law attorney upon the dissolution of your marriage, child custody stands alone as the most serious and emotional. In the ideal case, spouses can quickly come to terms with the issues of child custody and child support which take into account the best interests of the child or children involved and do not drag them into the complex legal process.

The team at Grace Legal is comprised of child custody lawyers who have years of experience managing and, if need be, litigating child custody disputes. With compassion and skill, they guide clients through sensitive issues, including parental rights, physical custody, legal custody, shared custody, visitation rights, and other custody issues. More than anything, our child custody lawyers provide Grace and compassion during this difficult time.

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What Is The Definition Of Custody In Pennsylvania?

The Pennsylvania legislature defines custody as, “The right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.” There are different forms of custody:

Each of the above is a legal term that comes into play when the spouses or the court are attempting to resolve who will have custody of any minor children and what type of custody that will be. Your child custody lawyers can evaluate these issues based on the circumstances of your case.

Custody, however, should not be confused with “Parental Duties” which is another legal definition set out by the legislature. Where “Legal Custody” has to do with the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to medical, religious and educational decisions.

“Parental Duties,” on the other hand, has to do with meeting the physical, emotional and social needs of the child.

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Child Custody FAQs

Legal custody has to do with which parent has the right to make decisions about the child such as schools, medical treatment, and religious affiliation and education. Physical custody, on the other hand, is when a parent is taking care of the child on a daily basis and includes where the child sleeps at night and who feeds and cares for them.

Physical custody and legal custody are granted independently of one another. A parent may have sole physical custody but shared legal custody. This is where the child custody issues can be further refined to make a distinction between Joint custody or shared custody as opposed to sole custody.

When a parent is granted sole custody, they have all of the physical and legal custody of the child. While sole custody can and may be granted to one parent, it is more likely – depending on the facts of your case – that there will be some level of “shared custody” between the parents.

Shared custody, also known as joint custody, means the parents split time, duties, and responsibilities. One parent will be granted primary custody. This makes that parent the one who primarily takes care of the child for the majority of the time. The other parent may be granted visitation.

Your child custody lawyers will explain to you how custody will be determined. The easiest and best case is when the divorcing spouses can settle this matter and enter into a child custody agreement. Such an agreement will determine the issues of legal custody, physical custody, and visitation.

If the spouses can’t arrive at a settlement, such an agreement may be found through the process of conciliation The conciliator will hear from both sides and make a recommendation about custody and visitation. At this point, based on the input of the conciliator and the advice of the family law attorneys, the parties can accept or reject the conciliator’s decision or accept it and enter into a child custody agreement.

Finally, if no agreement can be made, the custody determination will be made by a judge after a trial.

As would be the case at any trial, each spouse will be represented by their child custody lawyer. There are many factors and important decisions the judge has to make when it comes to custody. The standard the judge will apply when making their decision is “what’s in the best interests of the child.” Courts have been applying this standard for many years since the child’s welfare is the paramount consideration.

The judge will consider many factors when making their custody determination. These may include:

    1. Which parent is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent?
    2. Present and past abuse committed by a parent or member of the parent’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 parent 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 to the child.
    6. The child’s sibling relationships.
    7. The 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.
    9. Which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs?
    10. Which parent 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 parent’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
    13. The level of conflict between the parents and the willingness and ability of the parents to cooperate with one another.
    14. The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a parent or member of a parent’s household.
    15. The mental and physical condition of a parent.
    16. Any other relevant factor.

Your attorney will have an open, honest, and private discussion about how each factor may come into play and might impact your case.

Pennsylvania law does permit a judge to consider the custody rights of grandparents and great-grandparents.
In ordering partial physical custody or supervised physical custody to a grandparent or great-grandparent, the court will consider:

    1. whether granting custody interferes with any parent-child relationship; and
    2. Is this custody in the best interest of the child?

While a person always has the right to represent themselves in any legal proceeding, disputes that involve a child custody case are extremely complex legally. In addition, this is a stressful time for a parent and the family. There is certainly a risk that your rights and your goals will not be achieved if you choose to represent yourself.

The PA child custody lawyers at Grace Legal have the experience to protect your best interests. As child custody attorneys, they can protect your rights and achieve workable child custody arrangements. Grace Legal is devoted to making certain it can achieve a custody arrangement that is best for you and the child.

If you live in Camp Hill, Harrisburg, York, Lebanon, or another city in Central PA, Grace Legal will be by your side and lead the way with compassion, empathy, and most of all Grace.