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child custody Archives

No Gender Preference for Custody

Many parents who are considering custody litigation inquire as to whether Moms automatically get custody. It is true that Moms used to be the preferred custodians for minor children during the early twentieth century. There was a shared misconception that moms would be the better parents based on their natural nurturing instincts. This was especially true of young children or children of "tender years." In fact, a legal principle termed the "tender years doctrine" called for mothers to have custody of children until they were at least approaching their teenage years.

Presumption of Parentage

A presumption of paternity arises where a child is born into an intact marriage. In that circumstance, absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, the husband will be deemed to be the father. However, it may be a scenario where the biological father is not the husband.

Passports for Children

If you are contemplating travel over the holiday season, make sure you have the appropriate documents for your family. Every person, regardless of age, must have a passport to travel out of the country. Initial passport applications for children under sixteen (16) years of age must be made in person. Both parents of the child should be present. If one of the parents cannot be physically present, they may complete a parental consent form instead. This form must be notarized and a copy of the parent's ID must accompany the form. There are exceptions to the requirement of the consent of both parents including court order or proof of sole custody. Additionally, there is an application to obtain passport without the other parent on the basis of exigent circumstances and the unavailability of the other parent. You can visit the U.S. Department of State website for additional details on the requirements to obtain a passport at travel.state.gov.

Counseling for Children

Counseling may be a useful resource for children dealing with changes in family status due to divorce or separation. It can provide the children with a safe place to discuss and process their feelings. Both parents will need to agree to counseling unless one parent has sole legal custody. A parent can petition the court for an Order regarding counseling if they can't get the other parent's consent. Family counseling is another option if the relationship between a parent and child has been damaged or if a parent is looking to rebuild a relationship after a period of missed time with the child. Often times, reunification counseling will be used in the context of a custody dispute to reintroduce and/or reinforce the relationship between a parent and their child.

Changes to Grandparent Standing for Custody/Visitation

Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations laws sets out the circumstances under which grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation. One of three conditions must be met: (1) a parent of the child is deceased; (2) the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months; or (3) the child has lived with the grandparents or great-grandparents for at least 12 consecutive months provided a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home. In a decision from September 9, 2016, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania for the Western District, held that Section 5325(2) intruded on the constitutional rights of the parents.

Back to School - Custody

Fall is on its way and the school year has begun. Now is a good time to review your custody agreement to ensure a smooth school year. Your schedule may have changed from the summer and you should make sure you and your children are familiar with the new schedule. If you have shared legal custody, you will need to consult with the other parent regarding any decisions concerning the children's schools. If you have sole legal custody, you may still be under an obligation to keep the other parent informed and should refer to your custody order to double-check. It is generally a good idea to have a consensus about extracurricular activities for the children as well. If practices and games will occur on the other parent's custodial time, you will need their cooperation in getting the children to their events.

Divorced With Children: Issues You Need to Consider

If you are seeking a divorce and you and your current spouse are parents you need to lay the foundation for a happy and healthy future for yourself and your children. When divorcing there are both emotional and financial issues to consider. Issues surrounding children can be extremely contentious during a divorce, but a skilled attorney can help bring together to start working on issues together for the sake of the children.

Updates to Rules of Civil Procedure

Several updates are being made to the rules as it relates to family law matters. Rule 1915.11, which addresses the appointment of an attorney for a child for a custody matter, now permits the court to apportion the costs for an attorney appointed for a child as the court deems appropriate.

How Do I Enforce a Custody Agreement in a Divorce Settlement?

When we work with you on your divorce, your divorce settlement agreement will contain all the important issues facing you and your spouse including who has what type of custody. If your relationship breaks down and one party refuses to recognize the other parent's custody rights, the aggrieved parent can try to have the agreement enforced in court.

Third Party Custody Rights

Parties other than parents and grandparents may be able to file for custody. Section 5324 of the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations laws discusses standing for any form of custody. A person who stands in loco parentis may be able to obtain custody. In loco parentis status has been interpreted to mean an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between parent and child. You must be able to establish more than just a frequent care-taker role. New Jersey allows other parties to file for custody if they have become a "psychological" or de facto parent. This person must have established a relationship with the child with consent of one of the parents, be living with the child, have taken on all responsibility for the child, and have developed a meaningful relationship.

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