Deciding Who Lives Where And When

Parenting time — where a child will live, their days and hours at each home and parental responsibility for various activities — is among the most important issues to be decided by divorcing and separating parents. Though you are likely committed to obtaining the best living arrangements for you and your children, a skilled child family law lawyer is often essential in making this possible.

At the Harrisburg law firm of Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, our family law team is highly experienced in helping clients arrive at child custody and parenting time agreements that meet their family needs. Whether your child custody issue will be resolved in court, or through the use of child custody mediation/conciliation, we are prepared to help you review the many issues you need to consider.

Questions about child custody and your legal rights? Concerned that you may face difficulties in court when seeking custody or visitation time with your child? Call a Pennsylvania child custody attorney at Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, at 717-827-4074. We have offices in Harrisburg, serving all communities in Dauphin County, Cumberland County, York County, Northumberland County and Franklin County.

Factors Underlying The Best Interests Of The Child

Under Pennsylvania's child custody statute, family court judges are required to consider potentially relevant factors when arriving at a decision regarding what custody arrangement is in the best interests of your child. Whether you are going to conciliation/mediation, are negotiating an agreement, or your case will be heard in family court, it's important to understand how each of these factors relates to you and your relationship with your child.

Factors in deciding child custody include:

  • Parenting ability. The court must specifically explore which party has historically provided for the emotional, physical and social needs of the child. This was not an explicit factor in the prior law, but courts usually did make a prediction about who was better at caring for the child.
  • Stability/continuity. The court must decide which party will, in the future, provide for the greatest degree of stability and continuity in the child's life. This was not an explicit factor in the old law.
  • Relationship with a parent. The court must consider which party is more likely to maintain a loving relationship with the child.
  • Family. The court must now consider whether sibling and extended family relationships will be maintained through a prospective custody order.
  • Child preference. Both the former law and the new law give consideration to the preference of the minor child, but there is no rule that dictates a specific age when a child's preference will be a factor. The court will consider the age, intellect and maturity of the child. The new law adds the requirement that the preference of the child must be "well-reasoned."
  • Consideration of abuse. The new law requires the court to consider present and past abuse by a party or by a household member and whether there is any continued risk of harm to either the child or an abused parent. If there is a risk, the court must decide which party would adequately protect and safeguard the child from abuse.
  • Continuing contact. The court is now explicitly prohibited from considering any attempts by one party to turn the child against another parent, except where safety measures are necessary to care for the child. The former law allowed the court to consider which parent was better suited to foster the relationship between the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent.

These are but a few of the changes under Pennsylvania's new child custody law. Before you head to court or a custody mediation, talk to a child custody attorney with up-to-date knowledge regarding the factors the court will consider. Don't find yourself surprised or unprepared. We can work with you to investigate the facts of your situation and provide aggressive, comprehensive representation.

Get Help For Your Custody Concerns

If you have questions regarding child custody or parenting time law, talk to one of our Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, parenting time lawyers. Contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, at our Harrisburg locations. We accept credit cards. We offer daytime, evening and weekend appointments. Call 717-827-4074.