Child Custody

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 Pittsburgh child custody lawyers strive to put children first in custody disputes and will do our best to deliver on that promise no matter what the situation.

Contact Us Online Today or Call Us at (412) 693-6681 to Learn More About Our Child Custody Services Serving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Legal Custody and Physical Custody

To understand child custody in Pittsburgh, you need to understand the two different types: legal and physical.

Legal custody:

  • 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:

  • Physical custody governs who and where the child will reside. Some examples of physical custody include shared, primary, partial, and supervised.

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.

Understanding Third-Party Custody Rights

When it comes to child custody, it's not just the parents who may have legal rights. In some cases, third parties such as grandparents, stepparents, or other relatives may seek custody or visitation rights. Our experienced Pittsburgh child custody lawyers can help you understand your rights as a third party and guide you through the legal process.

Factors that may influence third-party custody rights include:

  • The relationship between the child and the third party
  • The child's best interests and well-being
  • The parents' fitness to care for the child
  • The child's wishes, depending on their age and maturity

Whether you're a grandparent seeking visitation rights or a stepparent looking to establish custody, our legal team can provide the support and representation you need to navigate the complexities of third-party custody cases.

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

Protecting Your Child's Best Interests

At Schmidt Bresnahan Law Group, LLC, we understand that child custody disputes can be emotionally challenging and complex. Our experienced Pittsburgh child custody lawyers are dedicated to protecting your child's best interests and helping you navigate the legal process with compassion and expertise.

When it comes to child custody, it's important to consider:

  • The child's safety and well-being
  • The child's relationship with each parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment
  • The child's preferences, if they are old enough to express them
  • Any history of abuse or domestic violence

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.

Commonly Asked Questions

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 an unfit parent in Pennsylvania?

Any records demonstrating mental or physical abuse that makes a parent unfit to care for their children, in addition to criminal charges and drug abuse, count as solid evidence showing that they are 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, someone acting “in loco parentis” (or in place of a parent to a child), or a grandparent who is not “in loco parentis” (under certain circumstances).

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