Child custody issues can be the most challenging family law issues to resolve. When parents do not live under the same roof, contention frequently arises in regard to scheduling time with each parent, as well as decisions relating to health, education, extracurricular activities and the like. Although the children’s best interests should always be the crucial factor in resolving these issues, in the midst of the emotional turmoil—including divorce—this simple but vital element is often overlooked by the parties.
Legal custody relates to those decisions involving, but not limited to, religious upbringing, treatment in terms of health matters, both physical and emotional, and education. Except in extenuating circumstances, parents will usually continue to share legal custody of their children. This can be memorialized at a custody proceeding or in a custody stipulation, to avoid any future misunderstandings.
Physical custody encompasses a variety of components requiring specification, either in a custody order or by agreement in a custody stipulation. Physical custody may be awarded or agreed upon as joint custody (shared equally by the parties) or with one party having primary physical custody subject to the periods of partial physical custody of the other parent. A physical custody schedule would usually outline weekly custody periods, including dinner visits and/or overnights, holidays, vacation, breaks from school, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, etc.
Mutual, courteous agreement is always encouraged, but in the event the parties are unable to concur, a custody complaint would be filed with the court, usually followed by the scheduling of a custody conference as the initial step toward resolving custody issues. The various counties of Pennsylvania and the State of Delaware do have different procedures but all are dedicated to the ultimate resolution of custody issues. Upon the entry of a custody order, the courts anticipate both parties will fully comply with the conditions of the order. If one or the other party does not do so, a contempt action may be initiated, or, if the order is no longer representative of the children’s best interests, a party may file to modify custody.
With their years of experience, the family law attorneys at MacElree Harvey are well-versed in the negotiation and/or presentation through the court of custody matters.
Circumstances occasionally arise which may precipitate a need for the modification of a custody order. Such occurrences might include a parent’s job loss or permanent change in work schedule, relocation, significant health issues or disability. Again, the family law attorneys at MacElree Harvey have years of experience in assisting their clients in the application for custody modification and presentation through the court system.
Custody relocation can be a complex issue arising out of one parent’s need or desire to move with the minor children to another county, state or country. Often, the move is necessitated by a change or transfer in employment, but sometimes it is dictated by the parent’s new life. In either case, both parents have rights to maintain a schedule of physical custody with their children. If one parent’s move impacts the other parent’s ability to maintain the current custody schedule, then the relocating parent must seek approval of the court for the move by filing for relocation. The parent wishing to relocate must serve formal notice of their intention on the non-relocating parent at least thirty days in advance of the proposed move. If that parent has an objection to the move, he or she must file a Relocation Counter Affidavit in a timely manner in order for a relocation hearing to be scheduled before the Court, wherein an order will be issued granting or denying the relocation.
Pennsylvania family courts consider the following factors when deciding the matter of relocation:
- The relationship of the children and each parent prior to the relocation request;
- The motivation for relocation;
- The reason for objection to the relocation request;
- The impact of the move on the child’s physical and emotional development, education, and the child/children’s quality of life;
- Preserving the relationship of the children with both the relocating and non-relocating parent.
The experienced family law attorneys at MacElree Harvey are able to assist you through the complexities of the relocation process.
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