Chester County Child Custody Lawyers
Although you and your spouse may have decided to part ways, you will both always be parents to your child. Aside from cases where an abusive situation exists, it is almost always best for a child to maintain close relationships with both parents. A parenting plan specifies with whom the child will live and preserves as much as possible their routine, while making adjustments for the new circumstances surrounding it.
Of all the issues that need to be decided in a divorce, custody and visitation are often the most stressful. The more details of a parenting plan a couple can work out together, the easier the transition will be for the child. It is important for all parties to remain flexible and put the best interest of the child first when creating the parenting plan.
Creating a Parenting Plan
There are many factors to consider in drafting a parenting plan. These include:
- Physical custody
- Visitation schedules
- The educational and extracurricular schedule of the child
- Time with extended family
- Work schedules of both parents
- Child care issues
- Transportation between parents
- Holiday and vacation schedules
- Advance notice requirements for schedule changes
- Emergency plans
An experienced family lawyer can be invaluable in creating a fair and enforceable parenting plan.
In situations where spouses cannot reach an agreement about child custody and visitation, mediation can be helpful. The mediator specializes in bringing two sides together to create a fair and lasting parenting plan that has the interests of the child at heart.
Keep in mind that if you cannot come to an agreement together about custody and a custody complaint is filed, then the matter will be decided by a judge in the Pennsylvania Circuit Court whose location is most closely associated with the child. A judge can also order mediation, which can delay the entire legal process if the order is issued at the initial proceeding.
Pennsylvania law does not favor one parent over the other. However, if a couple is not legally married, paternity must be established in court in order for a father to assert rights over the child. There are different ways of establishing paternity:
- Judicial determination of paternity
- Father’s written acknowledgement of paternity
- Father’s open and notorious recognition of the child as his own
Once paternity has been established, the court treats all parties as equal regardless of gender.
Generally, the court will try to leave a child in the custody of one or both parents whenever possible. However, in some cases, third parties may be considered for partial or complete custody of a child. Under Pennsylvania law, grandparents have more rights than other third parties to request visitation, partial custody and/or full legal custody of a grandchild.
Grandparents have the right to visitation or partial custody under the following circumstances and when it has been proven that this would be in the child’s best interest:
- The parents of the child are separated/divorced
- The child has lived with the grandparents for 12 months or more
- One of the child’s parents is deceased
The following circumstances may result in grandparents receiving legal custody of a grandchild when the court decides it is in the best interest of the child:
- A court order gave the grandparents the child
- The child has been living with the grandparents for 12 months by the agreement of the parents
- The child is at risk due to a parent’s drug or alcohol use, mental illness, domestic violence, or neglect
A parenting plan is one of the most important legal documents to come out of a divorce and should only be drafted under the guidance of experienced legal counsel. Investing time and effort in a good parenting plan now can save you the trouble and heartache down the road of having to modify a plan that is not successful. Working with a skilled child custody lawyer can help you avoid common pitfalls and will result in a parenting plan tailored to your family’s unique situation.
Chester County Child Custody Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Assist Clients with Drafting, Modification, and Enforcement of Parenting Plans
Contact a skilled Chester County child custody lawyer at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. for help negotiating, modifying, or enforcing your parenting plan. For a confidential consultation to discuss your legal needs, call us at 610-565-3701 or contact us online. We have offices in Media and West Chester to service clients throughout Delaware County and Chester County, Pennsylvania.