Until a court order is in place, the parents are the natural joint legal custodians of their children and have equal decision-making authority regarding their children’s medical treatment, education and religious upbringing. In the event of a divorce, legal custody rights are awarded by the court along with physical custody rights. Our family law attorneys represent clients with regard to legal custody disputes in both Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Once a custody order is issued in Delaware, the Court will designate how legal custody decisions are made. While joint legal custody is standard in Delaware, the law allows for one parent to be designated the “sole legal” custodian over all decision-making or just certain types of decisions. Our Family Law attorneys have handled numerous actions regarding legal custody including successful argument before the Supreme Court of the State of Delaware. Our attorneys have secured sole legal custody for their clients in cases where the other parent was not able to make decisions either through impairment or refusal to work in a reasonable manner with the other parent or where it was clear that the parents beliefs were so fundamentally different that decision-making was not possible.
In Pennsylvania, legal custody rights are awarded along with physical custody. Legal custody is almost always shared so that both parents have equal say in major decisions for their children. Infrequently, if one parent is unavailable because of incarceration or lack of contact with a child or is unable to make decisions because of mental impairment or addiction, a court will award sole legal custody to the other parent. Absent these extreme circumstances, if a particular legal custody dispute arises, for example, the parties cannot agree on where their child will attend school next year, the court will decide the contested issue only while leaving shared legal custody otherwise in place. Our attorneys have successfully litigated and negotiated legal custody rights in many contentious custody cases.