Father’s Rights in Pennsylvania
Strong representation in custody and child support cases
Pennsylvania requires that fathers be treated the same as mothers in all divorce matters including child custody, child support, property division, and alimony. It used to be the case that judges would always favor a mother in deciding which parent would have primary custody of the child. It used to be the case that judges would automatically do whatever they could to ensure the mother was awarded the marital home. It used to be that fathers would pay alimony on top of the child support payment.
But times have changed. At the Law Office of Jason R. Carpenter, our family lawyers fight for fathers who want to be involved in their child’s life. We work to ensure that a mother’s income and assets are considered when it comes to child and spousal support payments. In most cases, fathers should be awarded joint legal custody and joint physical custody. If a mother earns more than a father, then a judge may order that a mother pay child support to the father.
Fathers’ rights and child custody
There are two types of custody in Pennsylvania – legal custody and physical custody.
Legal custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions about your child’s health, education, religious upbringing, and other major decisions about your child’s life. There is a presumption that both parents who are named on the birth certificate should be granted legal custody.
Physical custody. This type of custody determines where the child lives each day and night of his/her life. The parent who has physical custody of the child is responsible for the welfare of the child while your child is in that parent’s care. Welfare includes eating, going to school, having clothes, being disciplined, social activities, after-school activities, and every aspect of daily life.
In Pennsylvania, most judges award shared physical custody – which means a child spends a large amount of time living with the father as well as the mother. In some cases, a judge may award a mother or father primary physical custody – which means your child spends the majority of his/her time with the parent who has primary physical custody. In sole custody cases, a parent has the right to have the child live with him/her all the time.
Pennsylvania child custody law specifically provides that one parent should not be presumed to be a better parent than the other parent. The law states:
“In any action regarding the custody of the child between the parents of the child, there shall be no presumption that custody should be awarded to a particular parent.”
Practical father and mother factors in child custody decisions
Many child custody orders are based on a negotiated agreement between the mother and the father. If a father feels the mother is not respecting his desire to be with a child, then a family law judge decides how custody should be awarded.
Custody decisions are based on many different factors – many of which require a practical viewpoint. For fathers, a lot depends on where each parent will live after the divorce, how much time they can spend with their child, and who can take care of the child when a father or mother isn’t home. Some of the key factors include:
- The ability of the parent to spend time with the child. A stay-at-home parent or a parent who can work from home has the ability to attend to a pre-school child or a child when he/she comes home from school. Parents who work away from home need to make suitable arrangements for someone else to watch their children.
- How much a parent is likely to “encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party” – such as the mother or father.
- The need for the child to stay in the same community and school. A key decision in divorce cases is which parent will receive the marital home. This decision is often the key factor in determining which parent a child will stay with.
- Whether there are any siblings.
- Which parent can attend to the “daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.”
- The level of conflict between the mother and the father
- How close the residence of each parent is to the other parent
- The preference – of older children
- Any history of abuse or danger to the child
The role of a father in a child’s life
The more a father is involved in a child’s life, the better it is for the child. Most family law judges understand that. As a father, you should have the right to:
- Care for your child according to the terms of the custody agreement or custody order
- Exchange custody of your child without threats, harassments, or interruption
- File a petition with the court if the mother doesn’t comply with the custody agreement or order
- Communicate with your child while the child is with the mother
- Be informed of any issues that might affect your child’s welfare
Relocation and fathers’ rights
If a mother or father wishes to move to another state or even an appreciable distance within Pennsylvania, the parent who wishes to move must give the other parent proper notice (at least 60 days) of the move. The non-moving parent can object to the move if the moving parent wants to relocate the child as well.
Fathers and mothers may want to move due to employment, a new relationship, or for personal reasons.
Fathers’ rights and child support
In Pennsylvania, there is no presumption that a father should be the person who pays child support. The amount of child support a father (or mother) pays is based on the following factors:
- Where the child lives most of the time. Whether a child lives 80% of the time with one parent or 50% of the time with one parent makes a big difference in the amount of the child support order.
- The income of each parent. Generally, the family court focuses on the income of each parent – and not the expenses of the parents.
- Whether a parent has children from a prior relationship.
- Any special needs of the child such as healthcare expenses and medical insurance.
At the Law Office of Jason R. Carpenter, our family lawyers fight for fathers who want shared custody of their child and want the mother to be responsible for her fair share of child support. We negotiate and litigate child custody agreements that respect your rights to be involved in every aspect of your child’s life. We draft agreements that keep in mind many of the practical challenges fathers face while raising their sons and daughters. To schedule an appointment with an experienced family lawyer, call us at: (717) 537-0928 or complete our contact form.
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