Summer is a time for travel and a time to move between the school years for parents of school-aged children. A child custody agreement may specify whether or not out-of-state travel is permitted or not during each parent's custodial time; if not, parents are usually permitted to travel with their children during their respective custodial time.
As the new school year begins for families throughout the Commonwealth, divorced or separated parents face a variety of issues regarding child custody. One problem that commonly arises is that of transportation to and from school. Pennsylvania courts recently settled one such issue and determined that a school district must provide transportation to and from two separate residences within the same district. In the case heard by the Court, mother and father were divorced and living within the boundaries of the same school district. However, their homes were on different bus routes and the school district had implemented a policy wherein it would not transport a child to multiple locations. As a result, father was forced to hire someone to drive his child to and from school during his custodial time.
With Mother's Day having recently passed and Father's Day fast approaching, separated and divorced couples face unique issues regarding child custody on these days. Often, these "minor" holidays are lost in the shuffle when a couple anticipates which parent will have custody of the child or children on major holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. It seems obvious though that Mother should have custody on Mother's Day and Father should have custody on Father's Day. However, what happens in a situation where Father's Day falls during Mother's custodial weekend or vice versa?
Although it should go without saying in this day in age, anything you post on the internet may come back to haunt you in the future. This is especially true when it comes to litigating a child custody or divorce case. As a family law attorney, my colleagues and I routinely look at social media sites (usually after prompting from a client) and find a shocking amount of inappropriate postings.
One of the primary concerns that Parents debate in child custody cases is which parent should have custody of the child on school nights. Now, there are a number of factors that go into determining which parent should have custody on those evenings including: which parent is more likely to help the child with homework, which school district each parent lives in, their proximity to the school and the availability of transportation to and from the school.
As a family law attorney, I occasionally encounter child custody cases in which paternity is a crucial issue. In Pennsylvania, paternity is defined as the state or quality of being a father. If a mother, potential father, or child wishes to have a paternity test conducted, he or she may petition the Court to have the test administered. Traditionally, a simple cotton swab test is conducted and DNA is taken from both father and child.
On occasion, our Pittsburgh law firm is contacted by a potential client dealing with a child custody matter and that client wants "full" custody because, up until this point, the other parent has been absent from the child's life. Now the former absentee parent is pursuing custody and the client wants the other parent to have nothing to do with the child.
When counseling clients during a divorce where children are involved, I am often asked whether or not the parents should put together a custody order to file with the Court. The answer I give the client is that it depends. The chief consideration when determining whether or not a formal custody order is needed rather than the parties simply making arrangements on their own is how well (or poorly) the parents communicate and work with one another. If the divorce is relatively amicable and the parties can come to an understanding regarding custody and are willing to be flexible, an informal agreement often works.
In a child custody case it is almost inevitable that at some point one or both parents will become involved with a new significant other. In my family law practice, I routinely encounter situations where a parent does not want to inform the other parent of who his or her new paramour is. Now, this isn't always a problem and everyone is entitled to a certain degree of privacy. However, if a relationship reaches a level where a parent wants to cohabitate with their new significant other that right to privacy becomes diminished as the safety of the child or children becomes the most important concern.
Occasionally, my law firm is contacted by a step-parent inquiring about his or her child custody rights after the break-up of a relationship. The child custody rights of a step-parent are quite similar to those of a biological parent in many ways. A step-parent in Pennsylvania has the right to sue a custodial parent for partial custody or visitation of the natural parent's child. This typically occurs when the parties married and lived together for a substantial period of time with the child/children and the step-parent assumed the role of supporting and caring for the natural parent's child. If the natural parent refuses to grant the step-parent access to the child, the step-parent should consider contacting an attorney and filing a complaint for partial custody or visitation.