Obtaining Sole Custody in PA: A Guide for Parents

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

How to Get Full Custody in PA

Wondering how to file for sole custody of your child in PA? The child custody lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC explain how and why sole custody is awarded to the custodial parent.

If you believe you should have sole custody, call us. Our child custody lawyers can help you show that sole custody is in the best interests of your child.

If your co-parent has filed for sole custody of your child and you wish to retain custody, we can help. Do not attend a Family Court hearing unprepared! Custody is difficult to regain once lost.

Call the child custody attorneys at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC to discuss your child custody concerns. Put our over 40 years of experience to work for you.

What is Sole Custody in PA?

Sole physical custody means one parent has full physical custody. Sole legal custody means one parent makes all decisions, religious, educational, therapeutic, etc. for the child. The other parent would have no court ordered time with the child and generally have no contact with that parent.

Why Do Parents Get Sole Custody in PA?

The most common reason parents get sole custody in Pennsylvania is that the co-parent agrees to it. The next most common reason is that the co-parent is unfit to parent.

Other Factors for Determining Sole Custody in PA

  • Neglect
  • Abandonment
  • Incarceration
  • Relocation

How Do You Prove a Parent is Unfit in PA?

The term “unfit” has a specific legal definition. In order for a parent to be deemed unfit and lose custody of the child, they generally fall into one of three categories which you must provide adequate evidence to prove:

1. Parent has a problem with drug or alcohol abuse or addiction.

Having a problem with drugs or alcohol does not automatically render someone an unfit parent. The accusing parent must prove that there is a risk of imminent harm to the child.

If you accuse your ex of being unfit for this reason, know that the court will likely order drug or alcohol testing for you both. To retain custody, anyone testing positive will likely have to submit to periodic testing and show that they are undergoing treatment for their problem.

2. Parent has serious mental health problems that are untreated.

Having a mental health issue does not in and of itself render a parent unfit. Again, the co-parent must show that the child is at imminent risk of harm due to the untreated mental health issue

To retain custody, the accused parent should show proof that they are undergoing appropriate treatment, following their provider’s instructions, and taking prescribed medication.

3. Parent has committed domestic violence.

If a parent has a proven record of abuse in the form of police reports, doctor’s or psychiatrist’s reports, or Pennsylvania Child Welfare reports, this can render the parent unfit. In addition to losing custody, they may be barred from contacting the child or the co-parent through a restraining order.

If the accused parent can show treatment and rehabilitation, they may get supervised physical custody with the child and perhaps unsupervised physical custody, over time.

If a judge determines that the accused parent was falsely accused of domestic violence, that may affect the custody arrangements of the accusing parent. The court will look at 16 statutory factors in determining the best interests of the child and awarding custody. One of the factors is whether one parent is attempting to alienate the child from the other. A false accusation could backfire.

Is Sole Custody Hard to Get in PA?

If you think the other parent has a drug or alcohol problem or a mental health problem and that your child is endangered by it, you may choose to seek sole physical custody. If you believe your child is being abused, seek an emergency custody order and pursue sole custody of your child. We can help you in either of these situations.

Obtaining sole physical or legal custody is difficult because the court prefers that a child have both parents in their life through other custody arrangements like primary physical custody, partial physical custody, and shared legal custody among others. However, the safety and well-being of your child will be everyone’s priority.

PA Child Custody Lawyers to Help You Get Sole Custody of Your Child

If the co-parent of your child agrees to a sole custody order or does not dispute your petition for sole custody, the court will award sole custody of your child to you. But more often, the co-parent defends against accusations of neglect or unfitness. Then you must prove it is in the best interests of the child that you have sole custody. What’s more, a sole custody order may be reversed under certain situations if you believe it’s in the best interest of your child.

We can help you do that. Call the child custody lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC to handle your sole custody case in PA.

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