Common Questions Parents Have When Determining Child Custody
When a marriage or long-term relationship comes to an end, how child custody is determined can be a great source of stress. Not only will it affect how often you get to spend time with your children, but it can have an impact on the relationship you are able to cultivate with your children for years to come. That’s why here at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., we have provided answers to some of the most common questions parents have regarding child custody.
How Does the Court Make Decisions about Child Custody?
When determining how child custody is resolved, the court looks at several areas when making custody rulings. This includes
- The mental and physical health of each parent.
- Whether a child requires specialized care for physical or mental conditions.
- What the child wishes (when old enough to communicate those wishes).
- Dangers that exist to children in either household associated with a parent’s alcohol or drug abuse.
- The interests of the child in matters such as where they attend school, access to the support of extended family members, and how physical custody will impact the child’s overall mental and physical wellbeing.
Which Parent is Most Likely to be Given Sole Custody?
This decision is not based on the sex of the parent, but on which parent has served as the primary caregiver of the child over time. In many families, the father has played the role of primary caretaker, and the court takes a gender-neutral approach in making these decisions.
How is Child Visitation Decided?
Child visitation may be arranged between you, the other parent, and in certain cases other stake holders. Visitation is then either approved by the court if parties can agree on a plan, or is decided by the court if the parties cannot come to a resolution. If you can work with the other parent and come to an agreement that suits you, this could save you time and money spent on legal fees. If this is not possible, the court will decide for you, and you will be ordered to comply. Decisions about visitation are based on what the court believes is in the best interests of the child.
What is Shared Custody?
Shared custody, or joint custody, is when both parents have legal custody. The child spends time living with each parent, and both parents hold equal rights in making important decisions about the child’s health, welfare, schooling, and other matters. Each parent has equal physical time (equal overnights) with the child. They will also have joint legal custody.
What is Sole Custody?
Sole custody is when one parent holds the right to make all decisions about the child, and there is no need to have an agreement from the other parent. The court operates with the concept that children deserve to be nurtured by both parents. Sole custody may be awarded if one parent is drug or alcohol-addicted, incarcerated, mentally ill, or has committed acts of domestic violence or abuse.
If We Have Shared Custody, Will I Need to Pay Child Support?
In some cases of shared custody, child support is awarded to one of the parents. If there is a significant difference in income, it is not unusual for the parent with the higher level of income to be ordered to pay child support by the court. This can occur even if the time with each parent is essentially equal.
Can the Amount of Child Support be Changed?
The amount of child support you are ordered to pay could be modified under several circumstances. The court will evaluate multiple factors, including whether the time spent with each parent has been changed, whether the parent who receives the support has an increase in income, the parent ordered to pay support has a decrease in income, or there is a change in the child’s needs, whether medical, educational, etc.
Will the Court Base a Custody Decision on What the Child Wants?
The wishes of the child are taken into account, but the age of the child affects how much weight is put on those wishes. When a child is age 16 or older, their preference will be given more consideration than it would otherwise, as it is less likely a parent has influence over what the child says they want.
What Does the Court Consider the “Best Interests of the Child?”
Several factors are considered, including:
- the safety of the child
- the health of the child
- any potential risk of harm
- which parent has historically been the caregiver
- the need for stability in education
- the proximity of any extended family
- sibling relationships
- which parent appears to be best able to provide a loving, nurturing environment
Other factors considered are any risks of abuse, violence, or drug or alcohol use that could endanger the welfare of the child in question.
Connect with Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. Today.
Child custody is one of the most vital issues to resolve in a divorce. Attorney Sheryl R. Rentz has over 25 years of experience as a Pennsylvania family lawyer. When working with her clients, she advises them of their rights, what to expect, guides them step by step, and takes actions based on what is most important to them. For no-cost initial consultation, call (610) 645-0100 today.