The Pennsylvania courts take special interest in the children whose rights are governed by custody laws — children of parents who are divorced, separated or unmarried. In 2011, the state enacted a new custody law for the first time in nearly 30 years. The new law formalized court decisions which developed more than 30 years of custody litigation, but it also contained some important changes. Being knowledgeable about the state’s custody laws and their nuances can be an advantage when resolving custody rights. The Pittsburgh custody attorneys at Pollock Begg care deeply about the rights of parents and children, which is why we have always been at the forefront of Pennsylvania custody law.
Do you have to litigate custody?
Few areas of the law can be as contentious and unpredictable as custody litigation. In most cases, both parents are fit, capable and free of mental illness, substance abuse problems or abusive tendencies. In those cases, the outcome may hinge on subtle issues magnified under judicial scrutiny. Custody litigation should not be undertaken lightly because of the profound effect it may have on the parents and children. By putting a judge in charge, families may lose control over important aspects of their lives. Most people would not want a stranger to decide how often they see their children and under what conditions, even if the stranger is a judge. This is why settlement is usually the best alternative to custody litigation unless there are severe problems. However, settlement is not possible in every case.
What is the custody process in Pittsburgh?
Litigating custody may be a long process. Our courts have intentionally erected obstacles to dissuade parents from fighting in court. For instance, parents are required to attend mandatory custody education and mediation sessions before they proceed to court. Even when the courthouse door is opened to them, parents must attend conciliations (settlement meetings) before hearings are scheduled. In some instances, a judge may order custody evaluations to assist in making their decision. The custody evaluations take time and may be expensive. Judges are mindful of the best interests of children. Their goal is not to avoid hard choices, but to encourage parents to set aside their differences when making decisions affecting the most vulnerable people involved in a divorce — the children.
Does Pennsylvania require a custody order?
Some parents believe they must have a custody order to make their divorce complete. If an informal custody arrangement is working well, it is not always necessary to put it in writing. Custody orders may be beneficial to establish boundaries, set rules or to travel outside of the U.S., but flexibility and cooperation may be sacrificed. When parents do not have a custody order, they might simply keep a custody schedule that is working. This will help them to prove the status quo if there is ever a dispute requiring court intervention. Pollock Begg lawyers can assist parents to determine if a custody order is right for them and how to present their case in custody negotiations and court proceedings.
Call our offices today for an appointment to discuss how we can help to advance the best interests of your children.