Personal Injury Lawyer
Serving Hazleton, PA

Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania

For those engaged in a child custody dispute in Hazelton, it may be worthwhile to brush up on Chapter 53 of the Pennsylvania Code, which outlines child custody laws. These laws apply whenever parents have shared children, regardless of whether the parents are married, separated or have never been married. 

Understanding the law is vital so you can protect your relationship with your children. You want to be an involved parent, and that means ensuring you have the continued ability to make decisions on behalf of your child as he or she grows up. Because custody disputes can often become contentious and the stakes are so high, it is important that you have an experienced attorney helping you navigate the process and advocating on your behalf.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are two different kinds of custody that must be determined when parents split up. The first is physical custody. Physical custody refers to where a child is, and who is caring for the child. Parents could share physical custody jointly; one parent could have primary custody and the other visitation; or a parent could have sole custody.

The other important type of custody is legal custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions for a child, such as where the child will attend school or what religious upbringing the child will have. Parents may share legal custody, although it is important to realize this could set the stage for many disagreements over the course of the child's life. One parent could also be awarded sole legal custody. That parent would be the one who gets to make final decisions on the child's behalf and the parent with legal custody wouldn't have to listen to input from the other parent if he or she did not want to.

Parents can try to negotiate outside of court on the issues of physical and legal custody to come to a consensus on what is best for their family. This is usually the preferred approach. Sometimes, parents are not able to agree though. If parents cannot agree on how to share custody, a family court judge decides on custody.

If a family court judges makes the decision, Pennsylvania custody law instructs the judge to consider many different factors in order to determine what type of custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child.  Some of these factors include the ability of each parent to provide stability for the child, and the history of which parent has provided the bulk of parental care for the child over the course of the child's life.

Usually, both parents will be given at least some continued time with the child because it is best for a child to build a relationship with both mom and dad. There are exceptions, though, including in situations where one parent is abusive, neglectful, or otherwise is unfit to provide care for the child.

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