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Pennsylvania’s Divorce and Child Custody Laws Protect Spouses and Kids from Domestic Abuse



Pennsylvania’s Divorce and Child Custody Laws Protect Spouses and Kids from Domestic Abuse

Marriages can fail for a number of reasons. Some marriages run into difficulties due to disagreements regarding between the husband and wife in how children should be raised. In other circumstances, one partner may decide that he or she wishes to re-prioritize his or her life in a way that does not comport with marital expectations. However, in other circumstances the failure of the marriage may be the result of a mentally or physically abusive spouse. While the non-abusive spouse may endeavor to change his or her spouse, these attempts are often unsuccessful and the abuse continues. At some point, physical or verbal attacks may motivate a spouse to seek a divorce.  

If your divorce was motivated by a mentally or physically abusive spouse and you have children from the marriage, you are probably equally concerned about protecting your kids from the abuse. If you stayed in an abusive marriage because you were afraid of what would happen to your children, please understand that Pennsylvania divorce and child custody law protect the victims of abuse. If you are in an abusive marriage, please don’t delay seeking out a divorce attorney who can explain how the law protects victims of abuse. A Philadelphia divorce lawyer of Sadek & Cooper may be able to help. To schedule a confidential consultation, call 215-995-2543.

Emergency Protection from Abuse Orders Are Available

A Protection from Abuse order can force your abuses to cease and avoid contact with you. If he or she lives in the same home or household, a PFA can evict the abuser from the property on a temporary basis that can be made permanent upon subsequent sufficient evidentiary showings. A PFA can also force your abuser to give up guns, firearms and other weapons he or she may have.

Pennsylvania law defines abusive conduct broadly. Abuse includes any attempt to cause another person physical harm and the actual infliction of harm. Similarly, placing a person in fear of physical harm also constitutes abuse. Other acts that are typically considered abuse in Pennsylvania includes an array of unwanted sexual behaviors and advances, stalking and other acts.

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Individuals become eligible for a PFA order when the individual allegedly perpetrating the abuse is a husband, wife, former spouse, or other qualifying family or household member. The ability to apply for a PFA also includes individuals in same-sex couples and marriages. In fact, any person who is abused by either a blood relative or a relative by marriage is typically eligible for a PFA when abuse is present.

How Does Pennsylvania Custody Law Factor in Past and Continuing Abuse by a Parent?

While a PFA can provide nearly immediate relief from abuse, the abused spouse probably still has concerns about what will happen to his or her children upon divorce. Thankfully, Pennsylvania divorce and child custody law was drafted with these types of concerns in mind. In fact, Pennsylvania custody law was revised relatively recently, in 2011. Act 112, effective since January 2011, contains multiple provisions intended to protect the best interests of the child and protect individuals from abuse.

For instance, §5328 sets forth the factors a judge should consider when awarding child custody. The statute requires the court to “determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child” (emphasis added). The law makes clear that a judge must give greater weight to factors affecting the safety of the child including the potential for abuse by a parent or caregiver or member of the caregiver’s household.

Three factors clearly relate to the potential for the child to encounter abuse. Factor (2) considers:

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.

Factor (8) contemplates:

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.

Factor (14) considers:

The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.

These are only some of the factors relating to protecting a child from abuse. Many other factors contemplate what type of arrangement would best serve the child’s best interests.

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Philadelphia Divorce Attorneys Fight to Protect Spouses and their Children from Abuse

At Sadek & Cooper, a divorce and Philadelphia child custody lawyer can fight aggressively to protect you and your child from abuse. If you are considering a divorce to remove yourself from the abusive relationship, we can fight aggressively and strategically to protect your children from similar abuse. To schedule a confidential legal consultation, call 215-995-2543.

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Sadek and Cooper Law Offices, LLC