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Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws

Posted by James

It might surprise you, as it did me, to learn that there are some situations under Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws in which parental rights are terminated. Wondering what they are? Read on.

The first thing you should know is that it will take some clear and convincing evidence that the parent, or parents, are unwilling or unable to care for the child before a court terminates parental rights. What are some situations in which the court might decide to sever the parent/child relationship? Well, the court will take into consideration such things as abandonment, mental illness, abuse, conviction and imprisonment of a felony, unexplained physical injury to a child, and failed rehabilitation of the parent. It also probably won’t surprise you to learn that parents who murder another parent or child, or abuse other children, also lose parental rights.

Here are some basics regarding child custody. When parents divorce, the divorce decree will state whom the children will live with, as well as the visitation rights of the other parent. In most cases, the parents will work out these arrangements between themselves, sometimes with the assistance of their lawyers or a mediator. However, sometimes the court does have to step in and make decisions, specifically when the parents can’t come to an agreement, or when unmarried parents can’t agree on who will have custody of their child.

In most situations, the parent with whom the child will live most of the time is awarded physical custody. However, the parent who has physical custody of the child often shares legal custody with the non-custodial parent. Parents with legal custody are allowed to make decisions about the child’s education, religion, health care, and other concerns.

Some parents choose joint custody, in which the child or children spend an equal amount of time with both parents. Many parents choose this arrangement because it lessens the feeling of loss a child might have as a result of a divorce. However, parents who go the joint custody route must be willing to cooperate and demonstrate the ability to make joint decisions.

Another less popular option is split custody, in which the children are split between the parents. However, courts generally prefer not to separate siblings.

When the child’s parents are unmarried, custody is usually awarded to the mother unless the father takes action to be awarded custody. It is usually pretty difficult for an unwed father to gain custody of his children unless the mother is unfit.

I hope you’ve learned something about Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws. Thanks for reading

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