Lackawanna County Child Custody Lawyer
Child Custody Attorneys in Clarks Summit Serving Scranton & Beyond
The determination of child custody is one of the most emotionally charged parts of a divorce. Parents who were on friendly terms may find themselves in heated arguments regarding where their children will spend the majority of their time, who will make key decisions regarding their care, and where children will spend holidays. In turn, these disputes can have a negative impact of the emotional health of the child if they are not handled with care and discretion.
Custody-related issues can be extremely difficult to resolve, but the right approach and a competent custody lawyer can make a significant impact on whether proceedings resolve in your best interests. Contact our child custody lawyer in PA today.
How Is Child Custody Determined in Pennsylvania?
When a judge must make a ruling regarding establishing or modifying child custody, he or she may take the following factors into account:
- Each parent’s ability to provide a safe and secure environment to raise the child;
- Each parent’s ability to maintain a loving, nurturing relationship with the child;
- Each parent’s ability to tend to the child’s basic needs on an emotional, physical, developmental, and educational level;
- Any history of drug use, alcohol abuse, or criminal charges on the part of either parent;
- Any history of child abuse or domestic violence committed by either parent;
- The impact custody may have on the child’s current education; and
- The child’s own wishes.
Physical Custody vs. Legal Custody
Many parents going through the divorce process are unaware of the differences between physical and legal custody. Here are the individual aspects of each custody type:
Legal custody is undoubtedly more important than physical custody, as securing sole or joint legal custody typically means you have sole or joint physical custody as well. Legal custody means having the obligation and the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child in question.
Parents with legal custody make decisions and choices about their children’s:
- School or childcare (Should the child be enrolled in public or private school?);
- Religious activities or institutions (Will the child go to church, and if so, where?);
- Psychiatric, psychological, or other mental health counseling or therapy needs (Does the child need counseling, and if so, with whom?);
- Doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and other health professionals, except in emergencies (Does the child need to go to the dentist, and if so, with whom?);
- Sports, summer camp, vacation, or extracurricular activities (Will the child play sports or go to camps, and if so, which ones?);
- Travel (Will the child travel places, and if so, where?);
- Residence (Will the child live in this house or another house?).
If a parent has sole legal custody, then he or she can decide all the above without the input of the child’s other parent. If parents share legal custody of a child, then they both have the right to make decisions about these aspects of a child’s life, and they don’t have to agree on every decision.
If both parents have legal custody of a child, communication is key to avoiding problems and going back to court. However, if your child’s other parent is making legal decisions that you believe aren’t in the best interests of your child, talking to an experienced child custody attorney can help you determine if you need to go to court.
Having physical custody of a child is vastly different from having legal custody of a child. When a parent has physical custody of a child, it means he or she has the obligation and right to care for a child’s life regularly.
If a parent has sole or primary custody, it means his or her child lives at the house for most of the time, and that the other parent likely follows a visitation schedule. If the parents share physical custody of a child, then the child lives with both parents for a predetermined amount of time.
What Situations Call for Sole Legal Custody?
There are several reasons why Pennsylvania judges take away the legal custody rights of parents. In most cases, parents lose legal custody due to a history or ongoing problem with domestic violence in the home. If a parent has been arrested for child abuse, a judge may take away the parent’s right to legal custody over the child during divorce proceedings.
It’s important to note that parents can lose their legal custody rights due to past convictions of child abuse, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.
While domestic abuse is the number one reason parents lose legal custody of their children, there are other reasons.
Other reasons parents lose custody of their children include:
- Alcohol abuse;
- Drug abuse;
- Child abduction charges;
Protecting Your & Your Child's Best Interests
A Lackawanna County child custody attorney at O’Malley Law Office, LLC can provide much-needed legal representation in independent custody proceedings or those related to a divorce or separation. Whether a resolution must be reached through negotiations or courtroom litigation, our team has the know-how and experience to provide effective counsel.
At O’Malley Law Office, LLC, we deeply care for our clients and are committed to pursuing the best outcome in every family law matter we take on.
Call (570) 391-0866 to schedule a FREE consultation with a child custody lawyer in PA. We serve Lackawanna, Wyoming, Luzerne, Monroe, Wayne, and Susquehanna counties.
How to Prepare for a Custody Hearing
While your child custody attorney will be able to assist you and navigate you through this emotional process, there are still some things you can and should do to help increase your chances of obtaining the results you are seeking.
Below is a list of some tips that can help prepare you for an upcoming child custody hearing:
- Tell your attorney everything: This is a critical element in any client-attorney relationship. Remember, your divorce attorney is on your side and wants to help you, so it is always in your best interest to tell him or her everything. If you ever made any personal mistakes or problems with parenting, be honest about it. You might feel ashamed, but keep in mind that your ex-spouse is not going to withhold these facts from his or her attorney and, if you keep your lawyer in the dark about it, you will only end up hurting your own case. When your attorney knows everything, he or she will be able to plan and prepare more effectively on your behalf, so do not handicap your own case!
- Put together a witness list: Collaborate with your attorney to develop a list of reliable witnesses, such as your children’s teacher, sports coach, or another individual in a professional position.
- Never put your children in a potentially difficult situation: Generally, children are not asked to testify, especially when they are younger. Asking your children with whom they would rather live or trying to convince them to choose you will only cause them pain and harm your case. Custody decisions are not dependent on the desires of the children, but rather based on what would serve their best interests.
- Keep a journal: Documenting certain things could immensely benefit your chances of retaining child custody. Keep track of how much time you spend with the children, what activities you do, how much the other parent spends with them, and any negative remarks or threats you believe would impact custody. You should also try to recollect the past six months as well and document any notable incidents to the best of your ability.
- Never leave the family residence until a custody arrangement is in place: If you are going to move out of the family home without the children, having a court order in place is critical. Leaving without one can greatly harm your child custody case.
- Show that you are able to provide for them: Assuming you moved out of the family residence with a court order in place, it will be helpful to prove to the court that you are well established and capable of caring for the children, have a job, a place to live, community ties, and have already been preparing for school and child care. If the other parent is not capable of adequately providing for the children, it is important to find others who can testify to this.
Call (570) 391-0866 for a Free Consultation With a Child Custody Lawyer in PA
If you are going through a divorce, there is no need to go through the custody process yourself. It is beneficial to have a practiced child custody attorney by your side to guide you and help you obtain the results you desire.
At O'Malley Law Office, LLC our child custody attorneys have more than 80 years of combined professional experience and they are eager and ready to help you. We represent those throughout Lackawanna County and Pennsylvania, including Clarks Summit and Scranton.
Protect your interests and your child’s future with a Lackawanna County custody lawyer by your side. Call (570) 391-0866 for a free consultation.