Every child should live with a guardian who has their best interests at heart.
Be well. It is a wish that we have for those we love, and the standard that courts rely upon to determine cases of child custody. In Pennsylvania, the courts have repeatedly stated that the main concern in every child custody case is the well-being of the child.
Sometimes you may hear a judge refer to the best interests of the child or children. Using an assessment of sixteen factors that are required by Pennsylvania law, courts will award custody to the person (or persons) who is believed will best provide for the child’s well-being.
What is “Child Custody”?
A court order for custody has two parts: legal custody and physical custody.
- Legal Custody involves the right to make decisions concerning a child’s academics, health, religion, sports, or anything else that affects the child’s well being. Legal Custody is either Sole (meaning only one person or couple have the right to make decisions that affect the child) or Shared (meaning that more than one person have equal authority and must work together to make decisions that affect the child).
- Physical Custody defines who has the right to physically have the child at any given time or place. Physical Custody is defined as being either Sole (only one person or couple has the authority to make decisions about the child), Primary (the child resides with one person or couple who have primary authority regarding the physical presence of the child), Partial (one person or couple has specific times that the child is in their presence, subject to the Primary custodian), Shared (the adults involved equally share physical presence of the child), or Supervised (the person or couple may only be in the presence of the child with another adult who oversees the contact with the child).
Your rights to your child are limited by a custody order, making it very important to have an attorney familiar with the custody law. At Lengert Law, Kim Lengert is personally involved in every custody matter. Kim has focused her legal practice on children, working primarily in complex custody cases.
Who Can Seek Custody in Pennsylvania?
Not anyone can seek custody of a child in Pennsylvania. Only people who have standing may do so. Standing is a legal term which is the right to ask the court to issue an order for custody. Any person who has standing may seek custody of a child, regardless of whether the person is classified as a parent, grandparent, or third party. A basic beginning to any custody case is a determination of standing. A birth parent whose parental rights have not been terminated has standing automatically, but that is not the case for grandparents or third parties.
Under Pennsylvania law, grandparents may have standing if they have been providing parental care for the child in a situation referred to as in loco parentis or if they have met other requirements established by statute.
As third parties do not have the same statutory recognition as grandparents, they must prove that in loco parentis applies. The definition of in loco parentis is subject to conditions which require knowledge of how the courts have ruled throughout the years.
Custody Can be Modified
Years make a difference: for how the courts see custody, and for how custody affects a child. For this reason, custody orders may be modified by either agreement of the parties or by asking the court to make changes to adapt to changing needs of the child or changing situations that affect the child’s well-being.
Custody is Scary – We Help Take the Fear Away
The idea that a stranger can limit your contact with your own child is frightening. Kim Lengert has represented clients at all stages of custody matters in many counties throughout Pennsylvania.
Kim is here to help put aside the fears and keep the focus on your children. We take the time to listen to you, to learn about your children, and to seek what is best for you – and them – together. At Lengert Law, our focus is your family. Reach out to us today, for help.