If asked, most people will tell you that their children are their lives. The relationships children have with adults in their lives shape who they will become as adults. The custody process is intended to provide children with the best opportunity to have a healthy relationship with their parents, even if the parents are no longer together.
Custody of children in Pennsylvania includes both physical and legal custody. Legal custody is generally (although not always) the legal power to make important decisions about the child's education, medical care and religious upbringing. In most cases, it is granted to the parents jointly. Joint legal custody means that both parents must agree to a major decision. If there is no agreement, then a petition may be filed with the court to have the dispute resolved.
Physical custody is the right to have physical possession of the child. Depending on the amount of time with the child, a parent may have sole, shared, primary, or partial physical custody. It is unusual but not impossible that a child has no time with a parent.
Pennsylvania's custody statute sets 16 factors to be considered in awarding custody. These factors are designed to evaluate a parent's approach toward raising the child in a healthy, safe and supportive environment. Children should not be caught in the crossfire of their parents' lives and, to the extent possible, have ongoing and healthy contact with extended family.
Grandparents and great-grandparents may seek custodial time with their grandchildren under certain circumstances. The right to grandparent custody is not absolute, but where children are at risk, or have been cut off from their grandparents improperly, grandparents may consider seeking a order for custody.
When custody will be affected by relocation of one of the parents, Pennsylvania law requires that the relocating parent seek the permission of the other parent, and if an agreement cannot be reached, Failure to follow the procedure correctly opens the relocating parent to sanctions and an order to return with the child.
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