Child Custody Attorney in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
For many families going through a divorce or separating from a partner, deciding on and establishing a child custody arrangement is one of the most difficult issues that needs to be addressed. Needless to say, both parents want to do what’s right for their children while ensuring they continue to play a meaningful role in their life. When tensions are running high; and communication is difficult, it can be especially helpful to reach out to a family law attorney to tackle these complex and deeply emotional issues.
If you’re located in the Canonsburg, Pennsylvania area or anywhere throughout Washington County, contact our team at the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway to learn more about your options for a peaceful resolution. We have the knowledge and experience to provide for your family's best interests.
Establishing a Child Custody Arrangement
When establishing a child custody agreement, you and your co-parent have two basic options:
Option 1 - Work together: If you’re on relatively good speaking terms with your co-parent, you can draw up your own terms for parenting time, visitation, and custody (ie. joint vs. sole custody and legal vs. physical custody). In almost all cases, when you present this to the court, a judge will grant approval unless it’s found to be blatantly unfair to one party. This is the quickest and least expensive option. An experienced attorney can help you keep the conversation productive and on track by serving in a role like a mediator or simply as someone to confer with about legal questions that arise.
Option 2 - Court intervention: If you and the other parent can’t come to an agreement, you’ll have to take your case to family court. Here, each party will present their sides (typically with the representation of an attorney), and the judge will evaluate the evidence to make a determination on a custody arrangement. This is a costlier option since both parties will have to hire their own lawyer, and it will almost always take longer.
It’s also essential when establishing child custody in Pennsylvania to learn the difference between legal custody vs. physical custody and joint custody vs. sole custody.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s legal right to make decisions for their child about things like education, medical care, or religious affiliation. Physical custody refers to whose physical possession the child is in.
Joint (or shared) custody occurs when both parents share custody, and sole custody is when one parent has custody, but the other only has visitation rights.
Factors Considered in Determining Custody
Many parents want to know, “What factors will be considered in granting custody?” When you turn to the courts to decide on child custody, the judge will look at several factors. These include the needs of the child, the preference of the child if old enough, the ability of each parent to provide for the needs of their child, the willingness of each parent to promote a healthy relationship with the child and the other, the physical and mental health of each parent, whether there are any siblings and where they’ll be living, where each parent is located in relation to the other, and whether there are any concerns about the safety or security of the child.
Above all, a judge will look to ensure that the best interests of the child are being met and that both parents continue to play a meaningful and consistent role in their child’s life whenever possible.
Modifying an Existing Child Custody Arrangement
Modification of child custody arrangements is quite common and may be requested for a few reasons by either parent. Like the initial establishment, if both parents are in agreement on the changes, a judge will generally approve a modification as long as the best interests of the child are still being met. However, if one parent wants a change, but the other will not agree to it, they will have to petition the court.
Most typically, a change will be granted if the parent can show there was a major life event that necessitates a change in the custody order. For example, if the basic needs of the child have changed (say they now need regular medical treatment that can only be obtained at a certain facility), if one parent lost their job and was forced to take another that required them to move, or if one parent isn’t holding up their end of the parenting time schedule. In most cases, a judge will only grant the modification for substantial changes in circumstances and not simply because a parent finds the schedule inconvenient.
Child Custody Attorney Serving Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
At the Law Office of MariAnn Hathaway in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. We’re committed to truly listening to our client’s needs and formulating a plan that serves everyone involved. If you’re trying to work through a child custody agreement with your co-parent and want to speak with a family law attorney, give us a call today.