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Requirements to petition for child custody in Pennsylvania

For families with minor children, divorce is often a highly emotional process. Because most Pennsylvania parents want to remain fully involved in their children's lives, questions about who will get child custody and who might need to adapt to seeing their kids less often can lead to difficult decisions for the courts. Does a judge mandate sole custody to one parent or shared custody to both?

A parent can seek custody if the children have been living in the state for the preceding six months. Short out-of-state periods have no effect on this requirement. If a child is less than 6-months-old and has been living in Pennsylvania since birth, a parent can also file for child custody. In addition, a parent living in Pennsylvania can seek custody of children who previously lived in the state for at least six months and only recently moved to another state.

Once a parent has verified his or her eligibility to file for custody in Pennsylvania, the next challenge is determining which type of custody arrangement to seek. If both parents agree to share custody of their child, then they can file for joint custody. This custody arrangement is usually the best one for parents who are willing to commit equal time and cooperate in raising their children.

Another option is sole custody. The parent who has sole custody of the children will be completely responsible for raising them. Sole custody also can be sought if children or the parent or both face imminent danger from the other spouse, which is typically the case in domestic abuse cases.

Weighing all options is important. Fortunately, many couples figure out the right custody arrangement themselves because they are willing to set aside their personal issues and keep their children's best interests in mind.

Source: Womenslaw.org, "Custody," Jan. 8, 2015

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