What Child Custody Rights do Single and Unmarried Parents Living in Pennsylvania Have?

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Despite years of social progress that have steadily eroded and eliminated negative stereotypes regarding single and unwed parents, some people still have concerns about their legal standing regarding custody. For parents concerned about whether getting married creates additional parental rights, there is good news. That is, the act of getting married does not provide any additional parental rights. While a parent’s household situation and whether the environment is a positive, nurturing one is a factor the court will consider, the court will not use marital status as a factor to increase or decrease the parental or custody rights one has with their child or children.  

If you have questions about child custody in Pennsylvania, contact a Philadelphia child custody lawyer of Sadek & Cooper today. To schedule a confidential consultation, call our Philadelphia, Bucks County, or Delaware County law offices today at 215-995-2543.

What Custody Rights Do Single Parents Have?

Child custody rights are generally subdivided into two concepts: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody concerns the parent the child actually lives with on a day-to-day basis. Legal custody refers to a parent’s ability to make important life decisions for their child. Legal and physical custody can be shared by the parents or one parent can be granted sole custody of their child.

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Single parents have the same custody rights as married or divorced parents. That is, both the father and mother of a child are presumed to have equal parental rights over the child. Equal custody means that both parents will be able to contribute towards making important decisions regarding the child’s upbringing. These decisions may include the child’s education, religious upbringing,  and many other aspects of his or her life. While Pennsylvania courts presume equal parental rights, one parent may believe that it is in his or her child’s best interest for him or her to have sole physical custody.

How Can a Court Consider my Household Situation when Making a Child Custody Determination?

While a court will not focus on one’s marital status, it will endeavor to ensure that custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. § 5328 sets forth factors a court must consider when awarding custody of a child. Utilizing these and other factors, a Pennsylvania court must determine whether the custody arrangement proposed by and petitioned for by a parent is actually in “the child’s best interest.” The court may consider certain characteristics of the parent’s household in making this determination.

For instance, the second factor is concerned with any abuse that may have been committed or is being committed by any member of a parent’s household. Furthermore, the 14th and 15th factors considered by the court are concerned with:

  • The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
  • The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.

Thus, the members of a household will not necessarily impact one’s parental rights but may factor into the decision that sole physical custody is in the best interest of the child.

Otherwise, the courts are generally looking for a household that is likely to provide a child with the “stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life” that he or she needs to develop.” There are, in total, 15 factors plus a 16th “catch-all” provision that a court can consider when making a child custody determination.

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Work with Philadelphia Child Custody Lawyers Who Understand the Difficulties Faced by Single Parents

At Sadek & Cooper, our family law and child custody lawyers are proud to assist hard-working, dedicated parents. We understand that your children are precious and you only want what is best for their growth and development. Therefore, our lawyers approach every matter strategically and professionally. We endeavor to protect your child’s best interests during a divorce or child custody battle. Find out more about spousal support and alimony in Pennsylvania with our Philadelphia child custody attorneys.

To schedule a confidential consultation at our Center City, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, or Delaware County law offices, call the family lawyers of Sadek & Cooper at 215-995-2543 today.

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