Child Custody

The primary focus in Pennsylvania is on physical custody, legal custody and visitation. Physical custody is the actual possession and control of a child. Legal custody is the legal right to make major decisions that affect the best interest of the child, namely medical, education and religious.

We understand that your family is important to you.

While many parents cooperate in sharing custody of their children, not all do. In those instances, where parents are unable to come to an agreement over custody, one or both parents can petition the court for its intervention.

Child Visitation

Visitation defines the conditions of contact of the noncustodial parent and the child(ren), which is determined by the courts or agreed upon by both parents. It doesn’t give the noncustodial parent permission to conflict with the long range decisions and policies of the legal custodial parent.

Supervised Visitation

Supervised visitation is when the noncustodial parent may only visit with the child(ren) in the company of another person, usually a friend or relative, that both parents agree to act as a chaperon. Supervised visitations often require a specific place and time.

Fixed Visitation

Fixed visitation schedules occur when the court orders visitation for the child(ren), such as times and places for visits with the noncustodial parent. Courts often order a fixed visitation when the hostility between parents is so severe that it’s detrimental to the child(ren).

Wondering how your teen/pre-teen children view you? Try the parental report card.

Custodial psychologists would ask children these questions to get a good idea of their parental involvement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which parent is most likely to get custody?

The court must consider the best interest of the child when deciding which parent gets custody.

Do the child’s desires affect the court’s custody decision?

The child’s desires regarding custody have more impact in the decision as the child gets older. At age 7, the child’s preference is persuasive; at age 14, it can be controlling.

Does my schedule play a role in custody?

Absolutely, it must be the parent who is available and present to take care of the child.

Can custody orders be changed?

All custody orders are subject to review and can be changed, particularly upon a change in circumstances.

Do grandparents have any custody rights?

Currently, there is a trend to broaden grandparents’ rights under certain situations.

Custody Relocation

Child custody and relocation rules changed in May of 2011. A parent that wants to relocate with his or her child is known as the petitioning party. Under the new statute, the petitioning party must comply with the request in a highly detailed manner and also meet the burden of proving that the relocation with the child would be in the child’s best interest.

We know that maintaining a close relationship with your child is important to you.

Is the Relocation in the Best Interests of the Child?

Child custody decisions, including those involving relocation, are consistently made in the best interests of the child. As a custody relocation lawyer, Marguerite Nealon can help you seek your objective in accordance with protecting the best interests of your child. Specifically, as the petitioner, you must include a parenting plan, include a thorough custodial plan and be prepared to be responsible for the majority of the transportation. The courts do prefer to see visitation agreements that provide for the child to spend a fair amount of time with the non-custodial parent, ensuring that the child maintains a solid relationship with each parent.

If you are considering relocation, you will need to address issues such as:

  • Acquiring and transferring education and school records
  • Obtaining information on the new school
  • A transportation plan
  • Each parent’s work schedule
  • The child’s ability to travel


An Acknowledgment of Paternity form may be provided at the time of birth at the hospital. After leaving the hospital an Acknowledgment of Paternity form can be obtained from a county assistance office, a domestic relations office or by contacting the department of public welfare, bureau of child support enforcement, or a paternity coordinator. The form must include the signed consent of both the birth mother and father, and must be witnessed by someone other than the birth parents. If the birth mother refuses to sign an acknowledgment and the father wants parental rights, he may go to the domestic relations office to request a DNA test.


Paternity may be determined with a DNA test, an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, the actions of the father or a court order that establishes the legal father of the child. DNA testing is performed with a blood test, by swabbing the inside of ones mouth and other means. Once paternity is acknowledged it is harder to challenge later. If it is uncertain who is the father is, it is best to request a DNA test prior to any type of acknowledgment of paternity.

Birth Rights

Under the current law, when a child is born to a married woman the husband is presumed to be the legal father, but the presumption is rebuttable.

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