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Child Custody Attorney West Chester, PA

Wesley W. Legg Child Custody Atorney West Chester, PA

Attorney Wesley Legg has helped countless Pennsylvania and Chester County residents navigate the high emotion and high stakes of child custody. This area of family law is unlike any other, because it profoundly affects parents' relationships with their children. Wesley tries to prevent unnecessary conflict between parties wherever possible, instead focusing their energy and skill on the question: “What is in the best interests of the children?”

Physical and Legal Child Custody in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania law, child custody is separated into two distinct areas: 1) legal custody and 2) physical custody. Physical custody means actually who physically has possession of the child at a specific time. There are various types of physical custody, for example:

  • Shared (joint) physical custody: the child is with each parent half of the time.
  • Primary physical custody: the child is with this parent more than 50% of the time.
  • Partial physical custody: the child is with this parent less than 50% of the time.
  • Sole physical custody: only one parent has physical custody of the children.

Legal custody is defined by statute as the right to make major life decisions about the education, health and religious instruction for a child. Shared (joint) legal custody is the most common arrangement for parents. In a situation where one parent has primary physical custody and both parents have shared (joint) legal custody, both parents share in making important decisions for their children no matter who physically has the children.

When the parents share legal and physical custody, the parents usually live close to one another and continue a beneficial relationship for the children.

It is rare for one parent to have both sole physical and legal custody of a child, because the courts recognize the important contributions of both parents to the child’s development.

Child Custody Decisions in Pennsylvania

Parents in Pennsylvania can determine how they will share parental duties by agreement. When a decision about custody is reached, the agreement should be filed with the court so that it will be enforceable. When an agreement cannot be reached, they can look to the courts for guidance and a decision.

When a court is charged with the task of deciding child custody, it must ask and answer the question, "What is in the best interests of the child?" The court must look to these sixteen factors set forth in Pennsylvania law:

  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party;
  • The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party's household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child;
  • The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child;
  • The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life and community life;
  • The availability of extended family;
  • The child's sibling relationships;
  • The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment;
  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm;
  • Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child's emotional needs;
  • Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child;
  • The proximity of the residences of the parties;
  • Each party's availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements;
  • The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another (a party's effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party);
  • The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party's household;
  • The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party's household;
  • Any other relevant factor.

When the parties ask the court to determine the child custody dispute, the court must protect the child's best interests. This does not mean the child gets to decide with whom he or she will reside. Generally, all custody orders are modifiable; as the child’s life and needs change, the parents may file a modification based upon those changes.

Recent Changes to Pennsylvania Child Custody Law

In 2011, there were some significant changes to Pennsylvania custody law. These include a requirement that a parent seeking to relocate from his or her current county to another county, state or country must give the other party notice that meets with certain statutory requirements. The other party may choose to contest the relocation of the parties' children.

The 2011 changes to Pennsylvania custody law also created a requirement that all parties involved in a custody action file a crimes affidavit. This affidavit must be filled out for the parties of the action and any person living in the household with the children, including a parent's live-in boyfriend or girlfriend. The court will consider whether any member of the household is a danger to the child or has been convicted or pled guilty or no contest to over 30 offenses, which include sexual assault, aggravated assault, and driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated.

The custody and well-being of your child is of the utmost importance to you. You should have an attorney with the experience and determination to protect your relationship with your child. Contact the Law Office Wesley W. Legg, Esquire LLC today at(484) 401-7079 or via our online contact form to set up a consultation regarding your family law issue. Wesley W. Legg represents clients living in Chester County, Montgomery County, and Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

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Wesley Legg is a native of Chester County. He attended Bishop Shanahan High School and graduated in 2002. He went on to attend West Chester University, later transferring to Penn State University from… Read More

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