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Custody Law Update

When the Court makes a decision about custody, it must decide who should have custody in a way most favorable to the child’s well-being. In 2011, Pennsylvania courts set forth sixteen factors to determine who gets custody. New Jersey and New York have similar factors to determine what custody arrangement is in the best interest of the child.

Who has a right to seek custody of a child?
  • Both natural parents as long as their rights have not been terminated through an adoption proceeding.
  • Someone who has legally adopted the child.
  • A grandparent if they have cared for the child for at least 12 months, if the child is at extreme risk, if one of the child’s parents is dead, or if the child’s parents’ divorce is pending.
  • Anyone who has cared for the child for a substantial period of time.

Legal custody is the right to make major decisions affecting the child, including medical, religious, and educational decisions. Le-gal custody can be sole or shared. Many courts rule in favor of joint legal custody.

Physical custody is the right to have the child in your care. There are a few types of physical custody: primary, which gives one party the right to have possession of the child most of the time; shared/partial, which gives both parties right to be in contact with the child. Visitation can either be supervised or unsupervised, as the Court will decide according to the circumstances.

It is now more important than ever for an individual to consult with his or her attorney to evaluate the new law in comparison to their individual circumstance so that the correct decision can be made for the best interest of the individual’s child(ren).

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A couple can come to their own agreement about property settlement, which the court will generally accept. The Pennsylvania court will decide if either spouse is entitled to alimony, based on age, physical and mental condition, earning potential, duration of the marriage and standard of living. The court decides the duration of alimony, but support ends automatically if the one receiving it remarries or cohabits.
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