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child custody

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Find Answers to the Frequently Asked Questions

For decades, our clients have relied on The Law Office of Theresa Ann Hartzell, P.C. for guidance, experience, and knowledge in all areas of family law.

Read through our FAQs below to find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. If you have any additional questions or would like to schedule a consultation, please contact us.

Family Law FAQs

Do courts favor the mother over the father?
Courts take all factors into consideration equally. Cases are determined based on the facts available to them. Custody matters are decided in an often lopsided judicial system, which is why you need an experienced attorney to speak on your behalf,

In the past, mothers were almost universally awarded primary physical custody, but this approach has changed. Fathers are now awarded much more time with their children.

Will my child need to appear in court?
We prefer to keep children away from their parents' disputes. However, their voice is important, especially as they get older. Sons and daughters of divorce do not have to testify in the open court. They may speak with a judge privately.

Do I need a prenuptial agreement?
Prenuptial agreements are important documents, especially if you need to protect significant assets going into a second marriage. We do not typically recommend them to younger people without kids in their first marriage unless there is a sizable asset and income disparity.

When is child custody decided?
Custody actions can be filed at any time. They can be filed with a divorce action or separately.

Joint legal custody versus sole legal custody?
Joint legal custody permits both parents to be involved in the decision-making process of the child's educational, religious, and medical decisions.

Joint physical custody versus sole physical custody?
Joint physical custody, also knowing as shared physical custody allows the parents to share time with their children. This ensures continuous contact with both parents.

With sole physical custody, one parent has exclusive custody of the children. This situation is very rare. Normally, physical custody of the children ends up somewhere between joint and sole physical custody.

How is custody decided?
The main consideration is what is in the best interests of the child. The court takes all factors into account when determining custody, such as the child's age, intelligence, and maturity, combined with the parents' work schedule and any past abusive conduct.

What is supervised visitation?
Supervised visitation rights mean that a party is not permitted to take actual physical custody of their child. They are only allowed to spend time with the child while the child is under the control of another person.

Can a judge order supervised visitation or no visitation?
A judge may order limited visitation rights, but it is rarely denied completely. It is against Pennsylvania's public policy to destroy the relationship between a parent and their child.
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