Denying custody is generally viewed as a drastic step but, depending on the circumstances, possibly a justified one. Often these situations involve a parent who cannot care for and make decisions for a child. They might be incapable of caring for themselves due to a severe physical or psychological illness, substance abuse, or involvement in criminal activity. There is a legal presumption that a child should have both parents in their life, but that can be overcome with evidence if it is not in the child’s best interests. 

What is Custody? 

There are different types of child custody. The status of each can be determined by the parents’ agreement (subject to a judge’s approval) or court order: 

  • Legal: This is the ability to make crucial decisions for a child (legal, educational, health, and other issues impacting their fundamental well-being). Legal custody is either shared or one parent has it. It is not split based on the subject to be decided, such as one parent deciding on issues related to education while the other is in charge of healthcare. 
  • Physical: The right to have your child live with or spend time with you. This could include sole, primary (the child lives primarily with you), shared, or partial custody. 

Visitation allows a parent to spend time with a child but not have legal or physical custody. Visiting can be supervised by a third party if a parent is especially troubled. It must be an extreme situation for a judge to deny child custody and visitation to a parent. A parent unable or unwilling to support a child may voluntarily give up these rights. 

How Does a Court Decide Who Should Get What Kind of Custody? 

When deciding child custody, a court determines what is in “the best interest of the child” and creates an order to accomplish that. There is a presumption both parents should share legal custody as long as both are considered competent caregivers. 

What Are Some Reasons a Parent Should Not Have Child Custody? 

This issue can arise during an initial custody dispute or after a custody order goes into effect. If conditions change after the order is in place and you fear for your child’s well-being, you can request the court modify the order, or if it is an emergency, you can file a petition for special relief. 

If you can show a risk of imminent harm to your child, issues that may persuade a judge to grant you sole physical and legal custody include: 

  • Substance abuse: Simply having this problem may not be enough to deprive a parent of custody rights. If this is an issue, both parents may face drug tests, and if one tests positive, they will probably be required to undergo periodic testing and treatment. 
  • Serious, untreated mental health problems: If the parent can show they are being treated and following their healthcare provider’s instructions, they may maintain custody. If they refuse to be seen for a possible psychological issue and or will not accept treatment, they risk losing custody.
  • Domestic violence: If a parent’s history of abuse is documented with medical or psychological records, police reports, criminal convictions, or child welfare reports, the parent may lose custody rights. These rights may be regained if they show they are in treatment and no longer engage in these episodes. 
  • Debilitating physical disabilities: If your spouse is severely disabled and that seriously affects them physically and mentally, they may be denied custody.

Like every legal issue, evidence is critical. No matter the problem, it must be documented with notes, witness testimony, photos, and videos. The more mature your child is, the more impact their testimony will have. You should keep evidence securely away from the other parent and your children, physically and or electronically. 

Records from law enforcement and healthcare professionals are also critical. Both sides may hire experts to give their opinions if the issue is physical or psychological. The same may be true of the alleged emotional or psychological impacts on your child.  

False Claims Could Backfire 

If you make allegations but lack evidence to support your claims, the other parent could accuse you of abusing your child by needlessly putting them through the dispute and abusing the court process. As a result, your ability to maintain custody could be challenged. 

The lawyers at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can protect you and your children if the other parent is unfit to be in their lives or you are facing baseless claims that you should not have custody. Contact us today to see how we can help. 

Parenting plans must be handled with good faith and flexibility. Problems arise when a parent acts in bad faith and ignores their obligations. If you feel this is something you’ll just deal with to avoid a confrontation, know that the situation won’t improve by itself. You’ll reach a point where you’ve had enough.

In most cases, divorces involving couples without kids are simpler because their relationships as spouses (with some exceptions) and individuals will end. That’s not true when parents divorce. They’re responsible for the same children, and unless one parent walks away from their child or is deemed unfit, they both have the right to maintain relationships with their child.

What is a Parenting Time Plan?

A parenting time plan aims to meet everyone’s needs as reasonably as possible by setting out a schedule of when a child will be with a parent. During the school year, the child may spend weekdays with one parent and the weekends with the other (or the weekends are split). This could also involve the child living with a parent during the summer and school vacations. Holidays are usually split between the two parents. Your parenting plan should be customized to fit the lives of those involved.

Ideally, the plan works for everyone, or minor changes are made over time. A child or parent may be sick. A parent may have a long, unexpected business trip. Cars break down. Traffic jams can cause delays, especially if a child and parent have a long distance to travel. These issues should be handled reasonably and unemotionally by the parents.

What Problems May Arise With a Parenting Time Plan?

Sometimes the situation is not ideal. One parent may see the plan as optional. It’s something they change at the last minute without consulting the other parent or child. One parent may feel the plan unfairly limits their time with the child, so they invent their own informal plan by returning the child later than they should.

This can be a serious problem for you. When your ex-spouse is chronically late or fails to communicate with you, it shows a lack of respect for you, your time, and the divorce order. Depending on the child’s age, their plans can be disrupted too. You may miss work or family obligations. Planned time with friends can be disrupted.

How Can I End Parenting Time Conflicts?

Here are some things to think about if you’re in this situation:

  • Is the other parent doing this to you because you’re doing the same to your ex? Are your hands clean, or is this an exchange of fire with your children stuck in the middle? If you’re guilty of the same thing, you must stop.
  • Does the other parent know their obligations? Does a lack of understanding or communication cause these issues? Don’t launch into a verbal attack. Clarify who needs to do what, and when. If the other spouse’s life has changed and the plan is no longer practical, try to work out a solution.

How Can an Attorney Help With Parenting Time Plan Problems?

If neither of these approaches gets results and your ex-spouse acts in bad faith, start documenting the problem. Create a journal with notes of your conversations. Confirm the discussions with a text or email. Keep these emails and texts discussing the situation.

When your child is picked up or returned late, take a photo or video with your smartphone. It should have the date and time when it was made. This is critical evidence that may allow you to leverage the court’s power to help you.

You should also call our office and get legal help. If you haven’t been divorced before, this may be the first time you’ve dealt with this problem. We’ve had many clients suffer through parenting plan battles. We’ve seen approaches that work and those that do not. We’ll put together a plan to get this under control.

One of our attorneys may speak with your ex-spouse or their attorney to try to straighten this out. Mediation may be worth a try. If all else fails, we can go to court to enforce the existing parenting plan and consider asking a judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt of a court order.

At Karen A. Ulmer, P.C., we know how to protect our clients and hold lying spouses accountable. Contact us today to see how we can help you.

In Pennsylvania, a divorced custodial parent cannot move out of state without informing the other parent, who has the legal right to object and attempt to block the move. 

We know you may want to move out of state for many reasons including a job opportunity, to be closer to family, or even just a fresh start. However, the other parent, even if they do not have custody, still has a right to be involved in the decision and possibly even block it. The courts are going to want to ensure that the move is not going to interfere with the non-custodial parent’s ability to be involved in the lives of their children.

Custodial parent’s legal duty in order to move out of state in PA

The custodial parent must serve the non-custodial parent and anyone else who has partial custody or visitation rights with official notice by sending a letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, 60 days before the move. If the custodial parent does not know 60 days before the move, the non-custodial parent must be informed within 10 days of the custodial parent finding out about the need to move. The letter must include:

  • Expected relocation date
  • Purpose of relocation
  • New street address, mailing address, and home phone number
  • Names and ages of everyone who will be living at the home with the children
  • Names of the new school and school district
  • Proposed adjusted visitation plans for the non-custodial parent
  • Any other relevant information

The non-custodial parent (or other person with court-assigned custody or visitation rights) has 30 days to file an objection to block the move, after which he or she loses the right to block relocation.

Factors the court considers

The burden of proof is on the relocating parent to demonstrate that the move would be beneficial to the children, improving their quality of life or standard of living without significantly affecting their relationship with the non-custodial parent in a negative way. The non-custodial parent must present arguments demonstrating valid reasons why the custodial parent should not be permitted to take the children away.

The court will weigh the factors:

  • The advantages of the move for the custodial parent and the children
  • The seriousness and validity of the moving parent’s reasons for the move. For instance, not simply because the parent wants a change of scenery or a new start
  • The seriousness and validity of the non-custodial parent’s objections
  • The level of involvement of the non-custodial parent in the children’s lives – for instance, attending sporting events and school events regularly outside of visitation time vs. only seeing or talking to the children every other weekend
  • The reasonableness of the new visitation arrangements, demonstrating no adverse effect on the relationship of the children with the non-custodial parent

Ultimately, while the court cannot stop a custodial parent from moving out of state, it can prevent him or her from taking the children. If the custodial parent still chooses to move, the custody of the children will be transferred to the other parent (or another responsible party, such as a grandparent).

If you are divorced and you or your ex is planning to move, it is critical to get help and guidance from a trusted expert in custody law. Contact us here at Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C. to see how we can help you.

Child custody is an emotionally charged area of divorce. You need to ensure your child is legally and financially protected and also emotionally stable throughout the process. Unfortunately, parents are often confused and overwhelmed through the process and want to fight. Sometimes they think it is best for the child to come into the divorce process and actually talk with the judge during hearings. Working out of our office in Langhorne, we help parents in Bucks and Montgomery counties work through the complicated issues and negotiate the best arrangements for their minor children.  

First and foremost, a judge does not have to make decisions in your divorce. We can work closely with you and your spouse on your settlements and negotiate any differences. A judge only needs to get involved when you do not agree.  

If you think it is a good idea to get your children involved in the decision-making process we always warn you to take great caution. Do not wage a war with your spouse and put your child in the middle, as that can cause short-term problems and long-term consequences for your child. It is best to make the decision after consulting with a therapist or guidance counselor. Work with them to find a good way to approach the situation with your child.  

If your child is going to go in front of the judge, we cannot predict how the judge is going to consider the information. In PA, a judge may consider what a child has to say, but has great leniency when it comes to actually considering a child’s thoughts:  

“The weight to be accorded a child’s preference varies with the age, maturity and intelligence of that child, together with the reasons given for the preference. Moreover, as children grow older, more weight must be given to the preference of the child.”

Wheeler v. Mazur, 793 A.2d 929 (Pa. Super. 2002)

Where will the judge interview your child during your divorce?  

For the well-being of the child, a judge may decide to have a more relaxed conversation so the child is spared testifying in open court. Regardless of where the meeting takes place, attorneys for both parents must be present. Navigating this part of a highly contentious divorce can be difficult and should only be done with a highly experienced legal team.  

Here in Bucks County and Montgomery County, PA, our judges are excellent at working with children. And all lawyers should work together to ensure that children are not being forced to choose between two parents – especially when the parents are already fighting, possibly within the presence of that child.   

A child’s education has lifelong effects. If you’re divorced or separated from the other parent, you may not agree on how to handle your child’s education. You must resolve this issue between yourselves with the help of an attorney, or a judge in Bucks or Montgomery County may need to make the decision.

Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., is a team of lawyers and staff in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have significant family law experience and have worked hard to build a law firm that can address your child custody needs, including disputes over your child’s education. If you have any questions or need help, call us at (215) 608-1867, book a free consultation online now, or contact us by email.

Parents usually make educational decisions about their kids. If parents are divorced or never married and had their parental rights formalized in court, a judge decided who has legal custody. This includes the ability to make important decisions for the child regarding such issues as education. In most cases, legal custody is shared by both parents. In relatively rare cases, a parent may give up their parental rights, or a judge decides it is not in the child’s best interests for a parent to have any legal custody.

Educational Issues That Can Split the Two Parents

If the two of you agree on issues, it’s not a problem. But if your child’s life is complicated and as more issues come up, there are more opportunities for disagreement:

  • Your child may have learning disabilities or other special needs. Your child will need more help from his or her school, but the school may not want to provide it. Parents may disagree on whether the child should attend another school or get private tutoring.
  • Your child may be gifted and have their own needs to be successful. Your child’s learning opportunities and how hard they should be pushed to excel can lead to disputes.
  • There can be public, private, and religious schools in the area. One parent may prefer one, the other parent may want the child to go to another.
  • Education can be part of a dispute when one parent wants the child to move with them away from the area. The child would attend a new school and the other parent may believe that is not in the child’s best interests because their education and friendships would be disrupted.
  • An athletically gifted child can present challenges. A parent may want the child to stay back a grade to perform better in sports at school. A private school may have a better athletic program, so one parent wants the child to transfer, while the other disagrees and doesn’t want to pay half the tuition.

If you can’t agree on important educational issues, Karen Ann Ulmer, P.C., can represent you to help negotiate a decision both parties can accept. If not, these issues can be litigated and eventually decided at a trial. But that’s an expensive, time-consuming option that should only be used for very serious issues critical to your child’s success in school.

Your Attitude Toward Your Child’s Education Can Impact Your Child Custody Order

If you’re thinking about divorce or considering getting a child custody order, or one is already in place, you must think about your child’s education and your role in it. One way to show you should keep or be given shared or sole legal custody is to be actively engaged in your child’s education. Communicate with the teacher, attend meetings, and actively address problems as they come up. If you’re not interested in your child’s schooling and are indifferent to their success, it can be used against you by the other parent. They might argue that you having legal custody of your child is not in the child’s best interest so it shouldn’t be granted or it should be taken away.

Get the Help You Need From an Attorney You Can Trust

If you have questions about child custody or need help enforcing or changing a custody order, call our office at (215) 608-1867 or book a consultation online now. We can speak over the phone, via a teleconference, or meet in one of our offices in Doylestown or Langhorne.

There may be times where a Grandparent is worried about the situation that they see their grandchild in. They might be concerned for their safety or well-being. Other times it could be that the grandchild has lived with them for some time now and they just want to have an official document saying that the child is in their custody. They might need a custody order in order to be able to sign off on certain things for the child. The fact is that in Pennsylvania it is possible for a Grandparent to get custody, however there is certain criteria that needs to be met.

In Pennsylvania in order for a grandparent to get custody rights they need to have standing. To have standing means that your scenario complies with what the law says is required in order to get custody. To have standing a grandparent of the child cannot be in loco parentis. To be in loco parentis means acting as the parent in place of the parent. Usually you have to be in that situation for a long period of time. The next requirement by law is that the grandparent must have a relationship with the child that started with the consent of the parents. The next requirement is that the grandparent assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child.

The next requirement requires that one of the following scenarios is true.

(A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters);

(B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or

(C) the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

 

Either A, B, C also needs to apply in order to have standing for custody as a Grandparent. However, even if you do not have standing for custody, you might have standing as a Grandparent for visitation, which is different. If you do not have standing by are curious about whether you have standing for visitation be sure to see my blog post on Grandparent visitation rights. If you are a Grandparent in Pennsylvania and want custody of your Grandchild pleas schedule an appointment with us today.

If you are a Grandparent your Grandchildren are probably pretty important to you. You probably enjoy spending time with them, watching them learn and develop into the person they are becoming. However, what happens if you are being denied time with your Grandchildren by a parent? What if the parent refuses to let you see the child or have any contact with them what so ever? This can be a very difficult situation to be faced with. However, in Pennsylvania Grandparents do have rights to visit their Grandchildren.

In order to assert these rights however, certain circumstances need to be met. The first scenario where a Grandparent can file for visitation rights is when one of the child’s parents is deceased. The second scenario where a Grandparent can assert visitation rights with a child is when the child’s parents have been separated for at least six (6) months or have filed a divorce or separation action. The third scenario is if the child has lived with the Grandparent that is seeking the visitation, for at least 12 months. In any of these scenarios the Grandparent filing must demonstrate that partial custody or visitation serves the grandchild’s best interest and also does not interfere with the child-parent relationship.

If you are a Grandparent in Pennsylvania and are seeking visitation of your Grandchild please contact our office today to discuss your options.

If you have children and have previously been through the custody process with the Court it is likely that it resulted with a Court Order. A Court Order for custody is issued in a Custody proceeding. This Order will direct which parent has legal and physical custody. Legal Custody is the right to make decisions for your child. Decisions such as where they go to school, what doctors they see, if they are involved in any religious activities would all fall under legal custody. The Custody Order will specify if one parent has sole legal custody or if legal custody is shared. If parents have shared legal custody they must consult each other about decisions in their children’s lives. A Custody Order will also direct who has physical custody. Physical custody is who the children are physical with. An Order could direct that one parent has sole physical custody or that the physical custody is shared. If the physical custody is shared the Order will probably also set out a schedule as to when the children are with each parent.

If you have a Custody Order and circumstances have changed or new developments have occurred you might think that the Order needs to be changed because the situation has. That is ok. Custody is always modifiable. If you have a Custody Order and you are seeking it to be changed we can help you with that. We would file a Modification of Custody requesting that the Custody be modified. If you are in Pennsylvania and have a Custody Order that you need to have changed, please call our office for a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your options.

If you have children, and are going through a divorce or separation a major thought on your mind is probably what is going to happen with the kids? Who is going to get custody? How is custody decided? What are the different types of custody schedules? These are all very valid and important questions and I know these thoughts can cause anxiety, fear and worry as well. This will give you a little overview on the types of custody in Pennsylvania to try inform you of more information and try and answer some of your questions.

First of all, there are two types of custody. There is legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for child. Decisions such as where your child attends school, what doctors your child sees, if they are involved in any religious activities are all examples of what would fall under the category of legal custody. Usually legal custody is shared between parents, however in some circumstances legal custody may be solely awarded to one parent.

Next, there is physical custody. Physical custody refers to who the child is physically with. Typically, in any court order there would be an included physical custody schedule. The first kind of physical custody is sole physical custody. This is where one parent has physical custody of the child 100% of the time. Another form of physical custody is shared legal custody where parents share physical custody time. The two common schedules with shared physical custody are 50/50 or a primary/partial schedule. In a 50/50 physical custody schedule the parents share custody and each have the child 50% of the time. A common schedule for this is called a 2, 2, 3 schedule where one parent has the child Monday and Tuesday night, the other parent Wednesday and Thursday night and then the parents alternate week to week who has the child Friday through Sunday. There are other schedules that can be worked out as well. With a primary/partial schedule this is where one parent has physical custody time more than the other. An example of this type of schedule would be where one parent has custody every other weekend. A third custody arrangement could also be supervised visitation. This would mean that one parent would have custody of the child however the other parent has the right to visit with the child so long as they are properly supervised.

Section 5325 of the Domestic Relations laws sets out the circumstances under which grandparents and great-grandparents may petition for partial custody/visitation. One of three conditions must be met: (1) a parent of the child is deceased; (2) the parents of the child have been separated for at least six months AND don’t agree on whether the grandparent or great-grandparent should have custody/visitation; or (3) the child has lived with the grandparents or great-grandparents for at least 12 consecutive months provided a petition is filed within six months after the child is removed from the home.

Non-biological grandparents also have the right to seek grandparent visitation rights where they stand in loco parentis to one of the parents of the child and it’s in the child’s best interest. In loco parentis embodies an assumption of parental status as well as an actual discharge of parental duties giving rise to a relationship which is the same as between parent and child. It is also possible for grandparents to request primary custody under Section 5324 of the Domestic Relations laws if they stand in loco parentis to the child. Again, in loco parentis means more than just taking on a frequent caretaker position. Under Section 5324, a grandparent can also file where they are unable to establish in loco parentis but can establish an existing relationship with the child and that the child is at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, or drug/alcohol abuse.