What is Joint Custody? Ask a PA Child Custody Lawyer
Get Assistance With Joint Child Custody
Child custody issues inevitably complicate any divorce proceedings. The key to getting through this difficult time is keeping the best interests of your children paramount. Although you may have negative feelings about your soon-to-be ex-spouse, for your children's sake, he or she should ideally retain a role in their care and upbringing. Most judges agree with the concept that children should be raised with equal contributions from both parents, barring mitigating factors such as child abuse.
What Does Joint Custody Mean?
The most common outcome of child custody cases is a decision of joint custody. Joint custody in Montgomery County encompasses the following three categories of sharing in your children's lives:
- Joint legal custody: Your children may live with you or your ex-spouse full-time, but you both have equal say in the care and control of their upbringing.
- Shared physical custody: Your children live part of the time (at least 35%) with you and the rest with their other parent.
- Combination of joint legal and shared physical custody: You and your children's other parent can construct your own special arrangement that combines both of these. Consult with an attorney to figure out what would work best given your particular situation.
Is Joint Custody Automatic?
Joint custody is not automatically given. For a judge to award joint custody, both parents must request joint custody or agree to it at some point in time. The courts will always go with what is in the best interests of the child, so if it is determined that both parents are fit to have custody and the child has a strong and healthy relationship with both parents, joint custody.
How Does The Judge Determine Custody in Pennsylvania?
The judge in your custody case will ultimately decide which form custody should take. The judge will take the following into consideration before making a final ruling:
- Ability of you and your ex to discuss and reach decisions about your children's welfare
- Your mutual willingness to share custody
- Your fitness as parents
- Your children's relationships with you and their other parent
- Which option would best stabilize your children's social and school lives
- Proximity of your home to your ex-spouse's
- The type of job you and your ex hold and the effect on your availability and ability to support your children
- The number of children you share
- The benefits to each parent and to the children of the arrangement
- The preferences of the children (assuming they are of an age to voice their opinions)
- The effect of the joint custody arrangement on any government-run support programs on which you and your children might depend
- Whether an offer of joint custody is being used as a tool to gain other concessions in the divorce
Will Joint Custody Stop Me from Relocating?
If you’re planning to relocate for a new job or financial reasons, unfortunately, you will have to get approval from the Pennsylvania family courts before moving your child. You will have to prove to the courts that this move is in the best interests of the child. The odds are against you because the courts generally do not want to uproot a child from his/her normal life. If the other parent opposes the move, it’s even more difficult. But it can be done. Your lawyer can provide evidence of how the move will benefit the child. Examples include:
- The move would put you closer to extended family members.
- It would allow you to seek better job and/or housing opportunities.
- Regular visitation would still be possible.
If the child is emotionally mature enough, the judge may ask if he or she wants to go with the relocating parent. It’s also good to come to court with a plan outlining the education and extracurricular opportunities the child will have with the move.
How Does Child Support Work With Joint Custody?
Many assume that child support isn’t paid if the parents have joint custody, however, this is incorrect. The state of Pennsylvania has a set formula in place for child support payments. If the child stays with a parent a minimum of 146 days overnight, that’s considered shared custody. The parent with the higher income would be ordered to pay child support and it would be lowered based on the amount of days the child spends with that parent. For example, Andrew is ordered to pay $800 a month in child support and he keeps his child overnight for 150 days. His work schedule becomes more flexible, and now he is able to do a 50/50 split (or 182 days) with the child’s mother. This increase in time that Andrew is spending with his child will get his payments lowered to $677 a month. The higher earner will always have to pay because the child must have the same standard of living at both locations.
Should I Have an Attorney for Custody Issues?
There may be other factors that come into play besides those already listed. With so many variables involved, you should definitely have an attorney when dealing with divorce. Contact a Montgomery County PA family law attorney at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., to help construct the best joint custody arrangement for your family. We will listen to your concerns and provide our recommendations for a joint custody agreement based on years of experience with the Pennsylvania family courts. Call today at (610) 645-0100 or (866) 290-9292.
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