Single parents, unmarried parents, and divorced parents should always stay up to date on child custody laws in their state. States like Pennsylvania periodically update their laws to account for changes in society, pressure from parents and courts, and the need for more equal laws. In 2017, there have been a few updates to PA child custody laws that current and expectant parents should know. If you have child custody needs, consider taking your case to the Philadelphia child custody lawyers at The Sadek and Cooper Law Offices.
Philadelphia Child Custody Rules 2017
In Pennsylvania, child custody is divided into two types: physical and legal custody. Physical custody is the when a parent has the child living with them in their house, giving them control over their child’s day-to-day life and needs. Legal custody is the power to make decisions in your child’s life, even if they live in a different household. If you have physical custody, you also have legal custody. When parents live in different households, one parent has “primary physical custody” for a greater part of the year than the other. This parent is called the “custodial parent,” and the other is called the “non-custodial parent.” If you are the only parent with legal custody, then you have “sole custody,” but you can have “shared custody” if you split decisions with the other parent.
In 2017, child custody laws underwent a few minor changes. The first change is important for birth certificates, especially for same-sex couples. The parents listed on a child’s birth certificate are the legal parents, regardless of whether they are the biological parents. While biological parents may be able to sue for custody at a later date, the birth certificate establishes the original, legal parents.
Under Pennsylvania law, the father listed on the birth certificate can be a parent other than the biological parent under a few circumstances. One rule allows a mother’s husband to automatically be the father, and enter his name on the birth certificate. In Pavan v. Smith, decided in May 2017, The Supreme Court of the United States decided that laws like this must equally apply to the wife of a new mother, in same-sex couples. This means you should consult an attorney and look into new custody rules if you are in a same-sex couple, and one or both of you will be giving birth.
In addition, child support laws have changed a bit in 2017. 2017’s child support laws may entitle you to receive more – or pay less – child support. Talk to an attorney about changing child support orders in PA.
Deciding Child Custody in Pennsylvania
Issues of child custody are often decided by courts. This means that in cases of abuse or mistreatment, the abusive parent may be stripped of custody by a court. In cases where each couple wants primary physical custody, courts look to a list of factors in deciding which parent gets custody. Under 23 Pa.C.S. § 5328, the court may address any relevant factor in deciding custody. However, the statute specifically tells courts to look at factors such as:
- Which parent will best foster the relationship with the other parent,
- Availability of siblings,
- Which parent will keep children in touch with extended family,
- Which parent can best help tend to the child’s emotional needs,
- How far apart the parents live,
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse.
There are other factors listed in the statute, as well, which may help or hurt your chances of achieving child custody.
Pennsylvania law also allows parents to give up custody to others who can adopt the children. Any party, such as a parent’s sibling or friend, can take custody of a child if the parents agree to give up custody. In some cases, grandparents may be able to make custody claims or sue for visitation rights and access to their grandchildren.
Courts can also strip custody from a parent. This can only happen after giving the parent notice and an opportunity to come to court. Especially in cases of severe abuse or drug use, courts may agree to remove a child from a parent’s physical custody, or may block their legal custody.
Philadelphia Child Custody Lawyers
The Philadelphia family lawyers at Sadek and Cooper help parents throughout the greater Philly area fight for custody of their children. If you are an unmarried parent, are divorced, or are going through any other custody disputes, talk to an attorney. Pennsylvania’s child custody laws are occasionally updated and reviewed, so talking to an attorney about any potential changes to your existing child custody plan is important. If you are unhappy with your current child custody situation, talk to one of our attorneys today. For a free consultation, call 215-625-0851.