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.
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.
23 Pa. C.S. 5322 defines all the different variations of custody. Physical custody is defined as "the actual physical possession and control of a child." Physical custody can be supervised if warranted. Generally, the court is considering if the welfare and safety of the child necessitates supervision. If supervision is deemed to be necessary, you have to establish who would supervise the custody time be it an agency of the court, one of the parties involved, or a third party. If using a third party, that person should acquire an understanding of the responsibilities of serving as a supervisor and what types of behavior are not permitted.
Now that warm weather is here and the school year is coming to a close, you may want to review your custody agreement to prepare for the summer months. Your standard schedule may change when the school year is over and you should make plans for that adjustment to go smoothly. If you have shared custody, you will need to consult with the other parent regarding what the children will do for the summer, for example, a certain camp or summer program. Additionally, summer is a popular season for vacations. Often, you must provide advance notice of any scheduled vacation to the other parent. Another scenario to consider is if one party likes to travel during the holiday season and therefore intends to schedule a vacation during that time. Holiday and vacation time will generally supercede the regular custody schedule, however, be sure any custody order makes clear whether the holiday schedule or vacation provision takes top priority.
Pennsylvania's custody relocation statute, 23 Pa C.S. 5337, requires the party seeking relocation to get court approval or the other parent's permission prior to relocation. A relocation is defined as any move that would "significantly impair the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights." Case law has established that when neither parent moves but the child is moving, Section 5337 is not triggered. In D.K. v. S.P.K., 102 A.3d 467 (Pa. Super. 2014), the Father was located in Pittsburgh, PA with the children and Mother was located in North Carolina. Mother was subsequently awarded primary custody resulting in the children moving to North Carolina. This was not considered a relocation since neither parent had moved, however, the court did state that certain factors in Section 5337(h) should be considered due to the impact on the children.
Today is National Alcohol Screening Day. The day is intended to raise awareness and highlight treatment options. It was first observed in 1999 and falls under the category of mental health screenings. Alcohol abuse is a frequent issue in family law matters. Often times, excessive alcohol consumption can be a trigger to aggressive or violent behavior. It is not unusual for Protection from Abuse matters to include allegations from the victim that the other party was drinking prior to the incident resulting in the petition. Alcoholism is also a factor in custody matters.
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.
International custody cases raise issues of both jurisdiction as well as subsequent enforcement. For cases beginning in the U.S., the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) likely applies. The UCCJEA gives jurisdiction for a custody matter to the home county of the child. This would be the county where the child has resided for six (6) months prior to the commencement of the custody action. If jurisdiction is not clear based on an analysis of the home state, the courts should then look to see where there are significant connections and substantial evidence relevant to the custody action. Significant connections is more than just mere presence in any state. Once a court obtains jurisdiction under one of guidelines above, that court continues to have exclusive jurisdiction until it is established that another court has become more suitable for jurisdiction. Accordingly, any modifications of custody must go through the court that made the initial or prior determination.
Pennsylvania's custody relocation statute, 23 PA C.S. 5337, requires the party seeking relocation to get court approval or the other parent's permission prior to relocation. A relocation is defined as any move that would "significantly impair the ability of the nonrelocating party to exercise custodial rights." This definition allows some room for interpretation on when it is necessary to request relocation. Some obvious examples would include a move which would potentially require a flight or at least several hours driving. If you had a schedule with a mid-week dinner visit or overnight, it would be impractical to travel that distance every time.
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, even in the absence of a biological connection, paternity may be established. Paternity by estoppel acts to impose an obligation on the party who holds themselves out as a father to the child and supports the child to continue to support the child. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has held that the purpose of paternity by estoppel is to keep families intact and protect the best interest of the child by shielding them from claims of illegitimacy and, potentially, a broken family.