Child Custody

  • In 1970, 2.8 million single mothers had custody of their children. By 1994 the figure had almost tripled. The number of fathers with sole custody practically quadrupled during that same time period.

As noted in Pennsylvania Divorce Code Annotated 2011 Edition:

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, custody litigation involves determining the best interests and permanent welfare of a child and to assure reasonable and continuing contact of the child with both parents after separation or divorce. Title 23 Pa. C.S. § 5301, et seq.

There are three basic types of custody disputes. First, there are traditional disputes between parents. Second, there are disputes between a parent, or parents, and a third party including grandparents rights. Third, there are those between a parent, or parents, and the state.

The Child Custody Domestic Relations Code was amended to now include in Chapter 53 section 5337 relocation custody rules governing notice, “relocation factors,” and burden of proof  all which a court shall consider in determining whether to grant a proposed relocation.

Each county in Pennsylvania has their own local rules and procedures to be followed when a custody action is initiated. It is important before commencing custody litigation to be familiar with the county local rules where an action is initiated. A claim for custody can occur in several different contexts. A person who has physical custody of a child may initiate a proceeding to confirm custody. A person not in physical custody of a child may initiate a proceeding by filing a custody complaint. It is most common to raise a claim for custody within the context of a divorce action.

A skilled family law litigator will be familiar with the law in Pennsylvania governing subject matter jurisdiction in custody actions pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“UCCJA”). Title 23 Pa. C.S. Section 5401, et seq., as well as the Federal Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA), 28 U.S.C. 1738A.