As Doylestown child custody lawyers, we help parents dealing with a divorce or separation through one of the most trying times of their lives. Many people have misconceptions about Pennsylvania divorce and child custody cases. Misconceptions may come from friends or television shows, where divorce and custody issues are often resolved in an hour or less. In television shows, divorce and custody laws are usually not applied as they are in real life.
Below are some of the misconceptions parents often have about Pennsylvania child custody cases.
Shared Custody is a 50/50 Split Between the Parents
When parents hear the term shared custody, parents often assume that there will be a 50/50 split, i.e., each parent has the same amount of time with their child/children. This is not necessarily true. Shared custody is when both parents have significant periods of time with their child/children. There may be circumstances that make a 50/50 split impossible, such as the parents’ work schedules. One parent may have the child/children 60% of the time, and the other parent may have the child/children 40% of the time. This would still be considered “shared custody”
The Mom Usually Gets Primary Custody
Many people think that mothers usually get custody of young children because they believe that mothers are better suited to take care of young children than fathers. This is not necessarily true. The “tender years doctrine” which gave a mother the automatic presumption of being more capable of caring for children has been abolished for over thirty years.
When determining custody arrangements, courts now apply the “best interest of the child” standard and must do so without any gender bias. The standard is set by statute and is now very specific in terms of what courts may consider. However the law was not always been as specific as it is today. Prior to 2011, parties in a child custody matter often found the best interest of the child standard confusing, particularly because there were no specific parameters on how the Court determined what was considered to be in the best interest of the child/children.
The 2011 amendments to Pennsylvania’s child custody laws enumerated 16 specific factors judges must consider when determining what is in the best interest of the child. Each of these 16 factors must be given equal weight, except for those that might affect the safety or welfare of the child. Some of the factors include: which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party, and the need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life and community life. Again, these are just two of the factors. For a detailed discussion about these 16 factors, see Doylestown and Newtown Custody Cases - How is Custody Decided in Pennsylvania?
If you are going through divorce or separation and have children, you most likely have questions about custody arrangements. You may try to do research about custody laws in Pennsylvania yourself, but it is best to discuss your Doylestown child custody case with a Pennsylvania divorce lawyer.