New child custody laws have been in effect for Pennsylvania residents for most of 2011, and the changes have already changed the course of many Pittsburgh child custody cases. The changes to court procedure and parental rights are largely intended to protect the emotional well-being of the children involved.
For example, gender neutrality is now required in all custody judgments made in the court. The law bars judges from letting one parent's gender influence how or to whom custody is granted. Custody orders can also now be determined while parents are still living with one another. While prior procedure was to wait until the parents moved out from a shared residence and lived separately, the new law allows custody to be determined prior to the physical separation, alleviating both parents and children of some of the emotional strain that accompanies the physical separation.
The judge in a custody case must also determine the threat of harm either parent poses to the child or children before making a custody order judgment. The threat of harm is identified in part by determining if either parent has been convicted of one or more of a set list of crimes. The new law has added convictions of driving under the influence and possession of a controlled substance as crimes requiring a judge's investigation.
Finally, visitation laws now require a judge to award some form of custody to parents rather than only providing visitation rights.
Pittsburgh child custody attorneys advise clients that the new child custody law could affect their efforts to obtain child custody. Getting the facts from an experienced child custody lawyer is always advisable.
Source: Centre Daily Times "Pennsylvania modernizes child-custody laws" Oct. 9, 2011