Whether you and your spouse have separated, are officially going through a divorce, or you and your child’s other parent were never married, Pennsylvania custody laws require that one of you begin the court process. To obtain custody of your child, you must go to court to gain approval on a mutually agreed-upon arrangement from a judge, or to have a judge decide your parenting plan.
You and your child’s other parent have the right to decide a child custody agreement yourselves. However, if you are divorcing or unmarried, you should go to court to formalize the arrangement. If you do not formalize your agreement, in a court order, you could find yourself facing a custody battle in the future.
You may file a complaint requesting a certain amount of legal and physical custody of your child. If this is part of a divorce, it will be addressed in your initial divorce complaint. If this dispute is not part of a divorce, then it is considered an independent action.
When you file the first legal documents, you are responsible for providing your child’s other parent with service of process so that they are adequately notified of the court case. If your child’s other parent begins the legal matter, then you will be served with these documents advising you when to appear in court.
For your best chances of legal and physical custody of your child, you need to have an attorney present during this process. Your family’s future is simply too important to risk – you need expert legal counsel with experience in family court. I can help.
If you receive unexpected paperwork about child custody or divorce, you need to contact a custody lawyer immediately. When a child custody dispute goes to court, the judge may require you and the other parent to go through mediation. This is an out-of-court process during which a mediator guides the conversation, enabling you and the other parent to make crucial decisions together. The mediator does not make any final decisions or have any ability to control the outcome.
If mediation is not required or fails, then the decision is put to the court. You and your child’s other parent can present the court with the amount of custody you each believe you should have, and evidence that supports your claim. The judge will review all of the circumstances, consider a number of factors, and then hand down a decision.