West Chester Child Custody Attorney Handles Negotiations with Care and Compassion
Ensuring your children's best interests
At Morton Family Law, LLC, Attorney Kim Morton has assisted numerous Pennsylvanians & Chester County residents with the emotional family law issue of child custody. Her balanced approached protects the best interests of the child and avoids unnecessary conflict. That approach is dedicated to preserving the parent-child relationship because children need and deserve a good relationship with both of their parents, especially when those parents are divorcing.
Under Pennsylvania family law, custody can be legal or physical. Legal custody refers to the right to make major life decisions about the education, health and religious instruction for your child. Physical custody refers to the parent with whom the child lives. Depending on how these aspects of custody are divided, there are several types of custody agreements including:
- Shared (joint) legal custody with one parent having primary physical custody — In this arrangement the parent with primary physical custody is the custodial parent who can often receive child support payments from the noncustodial parent. Although one parent is the primary custodial parent, both parents share in making important decisions for their children.
- Shared (joint) legal custody and shared physical custody — In this agreement, legal and physical custody are shared. This type of agreement usually works best when the parents live in proximity to each other and maintain a constructive relationship.
- Sole custody — In this custody arrangement, physical and legal custody are granted to one parent. While courts used to favor this type of arrangement, they no longer do, in recognition of the important contributions of both parents to a child. When one parent has sole physical custody, visitation can be granted to the noncustodial parent.
In the past, visitation as part of a divorce agreement referred only to the time that a parent had custody of his or her child. Today, however, visitation now occurs where one parent has full legal custody of the child. Visitation is usually supervised by the custodial parent or a neutral third party. The parent with visitation rights is typically not permitted to take the child off the agreed-upon premises. A parenting plan can include a visitation schedule along with a custody schedule, plans for special or school activities, means of communication between the parents, other specifics of the agreement and an explanation as to how the plan meets the best interests of the child.
How is child custody determined by the court?
In Pennsylvania, child custody can be decided by the parents in an agreement or through the judicial process. But even private agreements reached through mediation or arbitration should be filed with the court to protect your rights should the other parent fail to adhere to the custody arrangement. When the court determines child custody or approves a parenting plan, the primary focus is on what is in the best interests of the child. To determine that, judges look to a number of factors:
- The parent who is more likely to encourage and permit the child to develop a relationship with the other parent
- Past history of each parent including criminal issues
- Impact on the child's physical, intellectual and emotional health
- The child's preference
While the court may consider the child's preference, it's not a determining factor. The court's primary objective is to protect the child's best interests — even if it goes against the child's preference. If the child's needs change, a West Chester child custody attorney can assist you in securing a child custody modification.
How can a domestic partnership affect child custody?
A domestic partner or other household member can significantly affect your chances of securing custody. When you seek custody, the court considers whether any member of your household is a danger to the child or has pleaded guilty or no contest to any of more than 30 offenses including:
Put our child custody experience to work for you
With more than 30 years of family law experience, Attorney Kim Morton of Morton Family Law, LLC is skilled at negotiating child custody agreements. Her balanced approach protects your interests while simultaneously protecting your child from emotional trauma and parental alienation. To schedule an appointment, please contact us online or call the office at 888-698-1787.