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Child custody and the Pennsylvania court system

In Philadelphia, parents may file for one of two forms of child custody, namely, legal and physical. While physical custody gives a parent the right to spend time with their child, legal custody entitles them to make independent decisions about their children's lives. This seems straightforward, but the determinations courts use to decide whether or not to award specific forms of custody are not always as clear-cut.

To be eligible to have a child custody case heard in Philadelphia, a couple's children must have lived in the city for no less than six months, although emergency exceptions are sometimes granted. After determining that a parent is eligible to file for custody, a judge will evaluate possible custody options and arrangements before making a decision based on what they believe is in the child's best interest.

Official custody decisions take a number of factors into account. For instance, judges typically look at the past parenting behavior of each party, the nature of sibling relationships, and the child's preference and maturity. In addition, courts judge diverse safety factors such as prior abuse incidents, continued risk potential and the capability of a specific individual to safeguard the child. Criminal charges, drug abuse and domestic violence against spouses are also assessed.

Child custody battles can be emotional an and contentious issue for all those involved. A family law attorney might be able to assist a parent who wishes to obtain custody of their children by assessing and documenting all evidence to strengthen their case. Additionally, a lawyer could also assist an individual with modifying a court order for child support or custody if there is a change in circumstances.

Source: Goldman Law Offices, "Understanding the types of child custody and who may apply," Aug. 27, 2014

Source: The Philadelphia Courts, "Child Custody In Philadelphia County", October 10, 2014

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