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The New Pennsylvania Custody Law - Helping to Unite Families

Effective January 24, 2011, the Pennsylvania Child Custody amendments took effect and have already significantly changed how child custody disputes are being resolved.

As a divorce mediator, the new amendments have greatly helped me with my clients. For example, I had a male client who was concerned because his wife initially told him that strictly because of his gender, she would be entitled to primary custody of their two children. The new laws, among other things, take away the presumption that one's gender plays a factor in how much custody time they should receive.

Once I sat with the couple and explained the new custody amendments to them and the most recent court trends in this area, they were able to quickly compromise on a joint custody arrangement that satisfied everyone's best interests and concerns.

These amendments are excellent news for separating and divorcing couples with children because they provide for more guidance and clarity, while providing parents with much more incentive to resolve their custody disputes amicably without any court intervention. They also send a clear message that the long and tedious custody battles which have hampered the court system for years, and the long-lasting, devastating emotional effects they have on children, can no longer be sustained.

I applaud the Pennsylvania General Assembly for enacting these amendments which have long been overdue. As they continue to settle in and take effect, I am cautiously optimistic that they will serve their intended purpose of sparing children from the significant emotional harm that often results when their parents decide to separate or divorce.


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The Pennsylvania court may decide to order both spouses to attend an orientation for mediation or counseling. Mediation may resolve issues outside of court. The court tells the parties what issues need to be addressed in the sessions (for example, child custody, child support or division of property). The court cannot order mediation if there have been any allegations of domestic violence or child abuse within the past two years.
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