When a couple decides to end their marriage, there is no issue with more potential for emotion than the question of child custody. Though all parties maintain that they want only what is best for the children, individual interests, jealousies, and animosities often come into play, blinding one or both parties and driving tensions higher and higher. If you are facing a divorce and there are children involved, it is critical that you seek legal counsel from an attorney who specializes in family law and who can help you accomplish your child custody goals. Smith and Horwitz are widely recognized for their expertise, compassion, and experience in complex child custody cases, and will be able to provide you with the benefit of their insight, guidance, and representation.
At its most basic, physical child custody is a determination of where the child will live and what their day-to-day life and activities will consist of, while legal custody refers to who has the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child. In Pennsylvania, this decision is supposed to be based on factors including the child’s preferences, which parent is more likely to foster and encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent, and whether there is any past or present history of abuse or of criminal convictions. In practice, both types of custody can be either sole or joint, based on which the court considers to be in the best interests of the child as well as whether it is what both parents want and agree to. In situations where sole physical custody is awarded, visitation is often negotiated to allow the other parent ample time with the child if that is in the child’s best interests.
If parents agree on the terms of child custody, the arrangements that they have negotiated can be provided as a written stipulation to the court. These agreements should be as specific as possible, as it is often best to have a firm answer on issues such as holidays, weekends, vacations, and birthdays in order to prevent disagreements or lack of clarity. Unfortunately, this type of amicable agreement is not always possible, and it is when there is disagreement and rancor that having an experienced family law child custody attorney by your side is most important.
At Smith and Horwitz, we work hard to provide a voice of reason and objectivity when analyzing child custody situations and whenever possible we try to find a way to reach a settlement rather than put families through child custody trials. When litigation is necessary we have a vast network of resources to help us in our preparations, including child psychologists who will testify as to what living arrangement is in the child’s best interest.