At Noel & Bonebrake, we understand that nothing matters more to you than your children. Since 2000, we have handled hundreds of custody cases and numerous conferences and custody trials in Delaware County and the rest of the five-county area. Most child custody cases arise as an issue during divorce, but we also assist unmarried parents and grandparents seeking custody or visitation rights, as well as parents who need to have an existing custody order modified or enforced. Our attorneys strive for excellence in representation, meaning we are knowledgeable of the law, highly responsive to your concerns, and thoroughly prepared to fight for your rights.
Pennsylvania law divides child custody into two separate concepts: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to the right to have your child live in your home and the related duties, such as providing food and clothing. Legal custody is the right to make decisions affecting your child’s health and welfare.
In the commonwealth, each of these types of custody can be shared (joint) or held by only one parent (sole). When one parent has sole physical custody, the other parent generally has a right to visitation, unless a court decides that contact with the parent is not in “the best interests of the child.”
That principal, the best interests of the child, guides all custody decisions in the commonwealth. Under Pennsylvania’s child custody law, enacted in January 2011, the court must weigh the following factors to decide whether a custody or visitation arrangement serves the child’s best interests:
Through vast experience in custody litigation, we have gained a thorough understanding of how judges weigh these many factors and what facts they look for to support various assertions parties make to obtain a favorable custody order. When we go to court, we are fully prepared to raise facts or refute the other party’s assertions, so the court can make its decision based on full knowledge of the circumstances.
On the other hand, most custody cases do not require aggressive litigation. Our family law attorneys have helped innumerable clients negotiate parenting plans that protect their parental rights, advance the best interests of their children, and win court approval. If there are no major issues between the parties, a negotiated or mediated child custody agreement is often mutually beneficial.
In some cases, after a divorce or the death of a parent, the custodial or surviving parent cuts ties with the grandparents, forcing them to seek relief from the court. In other cases, a custodial parent may be judged unfit, prompting the grandparents to seek custody.
When a grandparent asserts a claim for custody or visitation, the law requires the court to consider the following factors in addition to those listed above:
Our firm also handles cases involving grandparents’ rights to their grandchildren with sensitivity and professionalism. We make the court aware of pertinent facts that weigh in favor of an award of custody or visitation, so you can continue a loving relationship with your grandchildren.
Parents like to believe that after they’ve gone through the trouble of negotiating or litigating to obtain a court order, the issue is permanently settled. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. As your children grow, their needs change. Parents also face changes, such as new relationships and career challenges. Often, a custody order no longer works for the family’s circumstances, or one of the parties refuses to comply. In many cases, a custodial parent wants to relocate out of state or at a significant distance that would burden the other parent’s visitation rights.
In such cases, our family law attorneys represent clients in negotiations or in court to:
Very often, we are able to negotiate a new parenting plan and take it to court for approval. However, when aggressive litigation is necessary to protect your parental rights, we go to court prepared and we fight to win.
Since 2000, the family law attorneys at Noel & Bonebrake have worked tirelessly to protect our clients’ parental rights. To learn how our proactive and honest approach can help you protect your relationship with your children, schedule a free consultation. Call us at 215-600-3189 or contact our Media office online.