Montgomery County, PA Sole Custody Attorneys
Sole Child Custody
Divorce is a difficult time for anyone, but it is even more difficult when children are involved. Sometimes shared custody is not a viable option, and a Montgomery County child custody attorney at the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, PC can help you gain sole custody of your children in order to put their best interests first.
When Shared Custody Is Not an Option
At one time, you and your former spouse or partner decided to have a child or children together. Now that your relationship has dissolved, you need to determine how to best look out for your children's well-being. Though your ex-spouse may be a natural or adoptive parent, he or she may not be a fit parent any longer. Whether this is a new development or an ongoing problem, you need to do what is right for your children's future.
There are many factors used to determine which parent should have custody, including whether a parent lives near other family members, which parent has been the primary caregiver in the past and, as he or she gets older, the child's wishes. While shared custody is the preferred outcome, sometimes one parent is simply not capable.
The court may deem a parent unfit for many reasons including a history of abuse or neglect toward the child, mental illness that makes it impossible for the parent to make appropriate choices for the child and addiction problems involving drugs, alcohol or gambling that interfere to the extent that the child has been put in danger. These are often the same reasons the marriage ended.
Two Types of Sole Custody in Pennsylvania
There are two types of sole custody: legal and physical. Legal custody refers to the role of the parent in making important decisions for the child, including where to go to school, emergency medical decisions and religion.
Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Sole physical custody implies that the second parent has no visitation rights. It is common for courts to award sole legal custody while still allowing shared physical custody to keep children connected with the second parent. Yet, sometimes even short exposures to that parent can be traumatizing or dangerous. In these cases, you should seek sole physical custody as well.
Because each part of custody is decided separately, you need a Montgomery County, PA family law attorney who will fight to secure complete sole custody, both physical and legal. It is the only way you can be sure that your child's well-being and development are safe from the bad influences of the unfit parent.
How to Obtain Sole Custody in Pennsylvania
Obtaining sole custody in Pennsylvania requires proving to the court that it is in the child’s best interest for you to have sole legal and physical custody. This process requires a substantial amount of evidence to sway a judge, as most courts consider having both parents in a child’s life to be the ideal situation. When determining sole custody, a judge will consider all aspects of the child’s well-being, as well as the opinions of child development experts, the relationship with each parent, the child custody status of any siblings, and the child’s preference.
To prove that sole custody is the best option for your child, a skilled family law attorney may argue that:
- Abuse or neglect: The other parent has a pattern of abuse or neglect that makes them unfit to look after the child
- Unsafe living conditions: The other parent’s home is unsafe for the child, such as if it is unsanitary, is in a dangerous neighborhood, or the other parent’s friends are a threat to your child
- Financial instability: The other parent lacks the financial resources to care for your child
- Lack of interest: The other parent is not actively involved in the child’s life or development
- Violations of parenting plans: The other parent does not abide by the parenting plan, constantly changes visitation dates, denies visitation rights, or makes decisions about your child’s life without your legal consent
In order to build a case for sole custody based on any of these situations, you should keep a detailed record of events that justify sole custody. Tracking instances of abuse, dates when visitation was denied or changed, and collecting witness statements about the other parent’s relationship with your child can go a long way in determining custody rights. It is important to discuss what evidence is relevant and can legally be obtained with your family law attorney before moving forward with a claim.
After determining that you have a case for sole custody, you will need to file a request with the court, fill out the necessary paperwork, and serve your ex-spouse with papers informing them of your intent to pursue sole custody. Contacting your ex-spouse can be difficult if they are not complying with the parenting plan, so you may need to go through an intermediary to ensure they receive the papers in hand.
Once these steps are taken, the court will request a meeting between you and your ex-spouse to discuss the situation and try to come to a mutual agreement. In cases where this fails, you may then request a trial by a judge to determine custody. The outcome may vary depending on each case, with sole physical and legal custody change based on the court’s judgment.
Sole Custody and Child Support
Child support is the financial support divorced parents make to ensure their child is taken care of. In both sole and joint custody cases, payment is often made to the parent who spends the most time with the child (the custodial parent). When one parent has sole custody, that payment comes from a non-custodial parent (the parent who does not have sole physical custody) in order to provide for the child’s needs. This can include paying for education, meals, clothes, and anything else the child needs to grow into an adult.
When child custody changes from joint to sole physical custody, or sole physical custody changes between two parents, the terms of child support may shift as well. If you are awarded sole physical custody by the Montgomery county court, the court may also determine that the non-custodial parent must pay child support. This financial aid is designed to help your child grow, and it is important that they continue to receive it until they are an adult. When pursuing a case for sole custody, your family law attorney can advocate for a reevaluation of child support in court on your behalf.
Rights for Non-Custodial Parents
Even when one parent has sole physical and legal custody of a child, non-custodial parents still have a right to remain in contact and see their child. If it is in the best interest of the child, the courts may award the non-custodial parent visitation rights on a limited basis, either at the custodial parent’s home or at an agreed-upon location like a park or mall.
If a non-custodial parent is awarded visitation rights, it is the legal duty of the custodial parent to abide by the court’s decision. This includes helping facilitate visitation and ensuring a positive relationship between the non-custodial parent and their child. If there is an issue with a non-custodial parent, it should be discussed with a family law attorney and the Montgomery County court. Any attempt to deny the visitation rights of a non-custodial parent can result in court-mandated changes in custody rights, such as losing sole custody.
Let Sheryl R. Rentz Protect Your Children
Call the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, PC at (866) 290-9292 to settle your child custody issues as efficiently and compassionately as possible.
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