Of all the difficult issues that need to be resolved when a couple decides to end their marriage, the question of child custody is the most emotional, the most challenging, and the most likely to lead to bitter disputes. Though both parents will profess to only being interested in what is best for the children, all too often the kids become symbolic of all of the power struggles and frustrations within the relationship and are used as emotional pawns against one another. At Smith & Horwitz, we are an experienced Philadelphia family law firm that will help you get past the animosity and find a resolution that puts your children first. Call us today to set up a convenient appointment and learn about how we can help.
In Philadelphia and throughout the state of Pennsylvania, the courts take the issue of child custody very seriously. Gone are the days when mothers automatically received full custody of a marriage’s children and fathers were provided with access on weekends and occasional holidays. The courts always hold that the most important consideration in child custody is what is in the best interest of the child, and that interpretation has come to include time with both parents, as well as which parent has been the primary caretaker and the child’s preference. In most cases, joint or shared custody is the arrangement of choice, which provides both parents with continuous contact. Though this rarely means that there will be a fifty/fifty split of physical custody, it does generally mean that both parents share decision making on important issues in the child’s life. Though some pursue sole custody, in which only one parent has both physical and legal custody, it is seldom awarded.
In Pennsylvania, the awarding of child custody is an issue that can be addressed separately and apart from the rest of the divorce proceedings so that it will not be held up by arguments over property division or support. The courts prefer that parents are able to come to an amicable agreement over what custody arrangement will be most beneficial to the children, but if families are unable to reach an accord, the courts will make a decision and a judge will decide the case. Even once a decision has been made and a custody order is entered, it is never considered to be a permanent arrangement. The state permits modifications of custody to be entered by either party at any time, although in most cases changes will not be granted unless the petitioning party is able to show a substantive reason for the change, such as a change in circumstances.
At Smith & Horwitz, we understand exactly how important the issue of child custody is to you. We take the time to listen to what your goals and concerns are and to help you find a solution that will work for everybody while still keeping your child’s best interests the top priority. Call us today for information on how we can help.