Pittsburgh Child Custody Attorney
Child custody issues are a frequent topic of discussion in divorce or separation cases. This is a common topic in any family law dispute when parents are involved. Our child custody lawyers have the experience and patience to help you navigate your child custody case with ease and compassion.
Our Pittsburgh child custody lawyers have the experience to get you the custody agreement that you are entitled to. Protecting your child(ren)’s best interests is one of our greatest strengths as a law firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our lawyers strive to put children first in custody disputes and will do our best to deliver on that promise no matter what the situation.
Legal Custody and Physical Custody
To understand child custody in Pittsburgh, you need to understand the two different types: legal and physical.
- Legal custody refers to who will have the authority to make important decisions concerning the child’s education, health, religion, and more.
- Legal custody consists of sole legal custody and shared legal custody. Sole legal custody means one party can make all the decisions for the child. Shared legal custody means both parties are to consult with one another in making decisions for the child.
- Physical custody governs who and where the child will reside. Some examples of physical custody include shared, primary, partial, and supervised.
What Determines Child Custody in Pennsylvania?
Custody decisions are based on certain factors to determine the best interests of the child(ren). Pennsylvania courts strive to issue child custody orders that keep both parents closely involved in the child(ren)’s lives. Considerations the court will take into account before awarding child custody include:
- Who demonstrates the likelihood of encouraging continued contact between the child and other party
- Any instance of present or past abuse by any member of the household
- Parental duties that each party performs
- Relationship between the child's siblings
- Availability and relationships with extended family
- A number of additional factors
What qualifies as unfit parent in PA?
Any records demonstrating mental or physical abuse that makes the parent unfit to care for their child(ren), in addition to criminal charges and drug abuse, count as solid evidence showing that the parent is unfit to be granted custody.
Who Can File for Child Custody?
In Pennsylvania, you can file for child custody if:
- You are a parent of the child
- You are someone acting in loco parentis (or in place of a parent to a child)
- You are a grandparent of the child who is not in loco parentis (under certain circumstances)
Pittsburgh Grandparent’s Custody Rights
Since law revisions in 2011, grandparents who stand in for a parent can attempt to acquire legal and primary physical custody if specific details are satisfied in the following situations:
- The child’s relationship with the grandparent started with the consent of a parent.
- You, as the grandparent, are fully willing to assume all responsibility for the child.
- One of the following applies: (a) the child is considered a dependent under the Juvenile Act or (b) the child is significantly at risk due to neglect, parental abuse, substance abuse, or incapacitation, or (c) the child must have lived with the grandparent for at least 1 year. If this is the case, then the grandparent must make the request within 6 months of the child’s removal from the parents.
To move forward and have a chance at getting child custody, the decision must be in the best interest of the child. If you are seeking child custody or even partial custody, an experienced attorney can help you navigate this process.
Grandparent Visitation Rights
In Pennsylvania, a grandparent can request visitation rights (also called partial custody) if the child’s family unit is broken. A grandparent can file an action for partial custody when:
- The child’s parent(s) is/are dead
- The child’s parents have been separated for at least 6 months or have filed for divorce or separation, or
- The child has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 months
As with custody rights, the grandparent(s) must also show that partial custody serves the grandchild’s best interests.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Establish Custody Rights as a Grandparent?
Grandparents can provide additional support and stability to the family unit. If you are a grandparent trying to seek custody of your grandchild, it would benefit you to consult with an experienced attorney to determine your rights. Our Pittsburgh grandparent’s custody rights attorneys can provide you with the knowledge and resources to help you figure out what decisions are best for your grandchild.
How to Win Third Party Custody?
While child custody cases usually only contemplate the legal guardianship rights of a children's two parents, in some Pennsylvania, the right of custody may also be open to grandparents and other third parties who are in loco parentis to the child(ren).
In loco parentis is a Latin phrase meaning "in the place of a parent." For child custody objectives, a court in Pennsylvania can grant custody to a third party — other than one of the child's parents — if it determines that it is in the child's best interests.
Child Custody Arrangements
There are many different custodial arrangements that can either be agreed upon or if necessary the court will make the decision as to how much time the children spend with either parent. An experienced Pittsburgh child custody lawyer should be called upon to assist you with this part of the process as it can be difficult for parents to agree on all aspects of a custody arrangement.
A custody arrangement in Pittsburgh will consist of the following components:
- A custody schedule that details who your child(ren) will reside with during the week and weekends and when this time will start and end
- Which parent will spend which holidays and vacation time with the child(ren)
- How you will transport the child(ren) to and from visitation
- Which parent will make the legal decisions for the child
- How involved the non-custodial parent will be in the child(ren)’s life
Turn to Our Skilled Pittsburgh Child Custody Lawyers for Help
Our lawyers understand how emotionally taxing it can be to determine child custody and create a parenting plan. With almost 20 years of experience helping families in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas resolve these family law issues, our Pittsburgh office is certain we can assist you in finding the best possible outcome for you and your family. We know that your child(ren) are your top priority, which is why our lawyers make them ours as well.
Heather Schmidt Bresnahan is an effective negotiator and a relentless trial family law lawyer. Her extensive family law background includes effective representation in Native American custody cases and Grandparent’s custodial rights (under certain circumstances).
Contact Us Online Today or Call Us at (412) 693-6681 to Learn More About Our Child Custody Services Serving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Heather is very professional.Shaina A.
Heather represented me in a divorce case recently and I feel that she did an excellent job.James T.
She had a sincere interest in my divorce, I wasn't just a client she treated me as family.Former Client
Heather Schmidt Bresnahan
"Heather Schmidt Bresnahan is a skilled legal advocate who provides effective representation in complex legal matters."Read Full Bio
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