If you are a parent who is getting a divorce, you likely have questions about Pennsylvania's child custody laws, and reasonably so. Here, we are providing a list of frequently asked questions about child custody.
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What types of custody are there?
In Pennsylvania, there are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to making major decisions on your child's behalf, whereas physical custody refers to having physical possession of a child. The four types of physical custody are: primary, partial, shared, and visitation.
Can my child choose?
It depends. The weight given to a child's preference will depend on the child's age, maturity, their competency, and the reasons communicated by the child for their preference.
What is primary physical custody?
If a child lives primarily with one parent, that parent is said to have "primary physical custody" of the child. The parent who with less than 50 percent of the custody is said to have "partial custody."
Does visitation mean I get to visit my child?
Visitation refers to a parent's right to visit (usually supervised) their child at the child's primary residence or at another location. However, visitation does not give the visiting parent the right to remove the child from the primary custodian's control.
How does legal custody work?
Usually, both parents share legal custody of a child. This means that both parents are expected to consult each other before making any major decisions on behalf of the child. It is rare that only one parent is granted sole legal custody of a child.
Does legal custody interfere with the day-to-day decisions?
While each parent is supposed to consult with the other parent before making major decisions for the child; for example, changing schools or having the child receive surgery, both parents are permitted to make day-to-day decisions for the child while he or she is in their physical custody.
Can my child be withheld from me if I don't pay child support?
If you can't afford to pay child support, the other parent cannot stop you from seeing your child until you pay. If there is an issue with paying child support, the other parent can file a support complaint, a contempt petition, or you can file a petition to modify.
If you are being denied custody, you should file a custody complaint or a petition for contempt.
Can the custodial parent move away with the child?
If the custodial parent wants to relocate to another area or state with your child, they cannot do so without getting your approval, or approval from the court. To relocate without the noncustodial parent's consent, they must follow protocol with the court, and the noncustodial parent must be given the opportunity to object.
If the noncustodial parent objects, a hearing is held to determine if the move would be in the best interests of the child.
Can a custody order be changed?
A child custody arrangement can be changed when it is in the child's best interests, there need not be a significant change in circumstances. The parent who is seeking the modification must show the court that the modification would be in the child's best interests.
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