Case Evaluation

Fill out the form below to get in touch with one of our attorneys.

View Our Blog
Meet Your Attorney
Lee Ciccarelli

Lee Ciccarelli

Lee Ciccarelli is the founder and managing partner of Ciccarelli Law Offices with over two decades experience as a practicing attorney.

Office Locations
Primary Location
304 North High Street West Chester, PA 19380
Map It
Secondary Locations

These locations are available by appointment only

1515 Market St., #200 Philadelphia, PA 19102
Map It
135 East State St. Kennett Square, PA 19380
Map It
600 West Germantown Pike Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462
Map It
1489 Baltimore Pike Ste 221 Springfield, PA 19064
Map It
101 Lindenwood Dr, Ste 225 Malvern, PA 19355
Map It
150 N. Radnor Chester Rd Ste. F200, Radnor, PA 19087
Map It
313 West Liberty St., Ste 341 Lancaster, PA 17603
Map It

Child Custody

When you have a son or daughter, they are often the most important thing in the world to you. You're likely very concerned about who the child lives with and who has the right to make decisions for the child. You may even want the right to visit with the child from time to time over their lives.

When parents disagree, these issues are brought into the legal world and become child custody issues. This can be an emotionally wrenching fight if not approached correctly. An experienced family attorney with a cool head can help you seek resolution on these difficult matters.

West Chester Child Custody Lawyer

Don't leave this delicate matter to chance. Our team of experienced legal team at Ciccarelli Law Offices can help you resolve this matter efficiently and with minimal stress to your family. Let us put all of our experience to work for you. We understand how important your children are to you and we will always go the extra mile to work towards a positive resolution for your family.

You can expect the highest levels of dedication and attention to you case. Browse our website to learn more about the following matters before your free consultation with our firm:

Call us today at (877) 529-2422 or send an online message to schedule time to talk to our family lawyers about your unique situation. We have convenient meeting locations in West Chester, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, and Radnor.

We proudly represent clients with custody matters all around Philadelphia and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Chester County, Delaware County, Lancaster County and Montgomery County.

Information on Pennsylvania's Child Custody Laws

Who May Seek Custody of Their Child in Chester County?

In legal terms, having the right to seek custody in court is called "standing." Any parent has standing to seek this. A person also has standing if they stand "in loco parentis" to a child, which means that they person acted as a parent. This includes legal guardians and family members who have had physical possession of a child for a significant period of time. If a person is seeking custody "in loco parentis," he or she will be required to prove that they have standing.

Grandparents might also have standing with their grandchildren. To qualify, the grandparent must have an existing relationship with the granddaughter or grandson, be willing to serve as parents and the child has no parents, the parents have abandoned the child, the child's parents' rights have been terminated, or the child meets other criteria and needs parental supervision, or if the child has resided with the grandparent for at least 12 months and the action is taken within six months of the child being taken away.

Back to top

What Does it Mean to Have Legal Custody?

Legal custody is the right to make important decisions on behalf of the child, including medical decisions, decisions about religious upbringing and decisions about attending school. A parent can have sole legal custody, meaning they have the exclusive right to make these decisions, or share this responsiblility with another parent, meaning they must come to an agreement on these matters.

These matters can be very sensitive. For instance, many parents have strong feelings about the religion their child will be brought up in. A parent with sole legal custody has the power to choose the religion, even if that religion changes. The most heart-wrenching issues, however, often with medical decisions. Legal custody includes decisions on whether a child will go through higher-risk treatment, whether a child will go on psychiatric medication, and whether or not doctors should resuscitate a child.

Back to top

Differences Between Physical, Sole, Supervised and Primary Custody

A parent can have sole, shared, primary, partial or supervised physical custody.

Sole physical custody means the child lives with one parent, and no other parent or person has any right over the child.

Shared physical custody means that more than one parent has the right to take physical custody of the child, and each has a significant period of time with the child. The actual length of time does not have to be equal, just significant. For example, one parent could have the child during most of the school year, and another parent has custody during summers, holidays and some weekends.

Primary physical custody means that the parent has physical care for the child most of the time, while partial physical custody means that the parent has the child for less than a majority of the time. For instance, the court could order that one parent has primary custody, and the child will live with that parent, but one parent has partial custody, and the child stays with that parent one weekend of the month.

Supervised physical custody means the parent's interaction is monitored by a court-appointed or approved person. This circumstance most often happens when the court believes the parent to be a danger to the child.

Back to top

Factors Used to Determine Which Parents Receives Custody

The overreaching issue in any custody decision is the "best interests of the child." The law, in Title 23, Section § 5328, lays out some of the specific factors that the court can consider when making custody decisions:

  • The party more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
  • Present and past instances of abuse committed by either party or a member of that party's household, and whether there is a continued risk of abuse.
  • Which party can better provide physical safeguards and supervision.
  • Parental duties performed by the parties for the child.
  • Which party can best provide for stability and continuity in the child's life, including his or her education, family life and community life.
  • The availability of extended family.
  • How a decision would affect the child's relationship with his or her siblings.
  • If the child is mature enough in the eyes of the court, what the child's preference is.
  • Whether there has been an attempt by one party to turn the child against the other, except in cases involving domestic violence.
  • Which party is more able to provide a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child, in a way that meets the child's emotional needs.
  • Which party is more able to attend to the physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
  • The distance between the two parties' residences.
  • Each party's availability to care for the child and make child care arrangements.
  • The mental and physical condition of the party, and of the party's household.
  • The level of conflict between the two parties.
  • Any other relevant factor.

There is really one thing the court cannot consider: The gender of the parties involved. The law specifically provides that all decisions must be gender-neutral. Any arguments that one parent is more fit to care for a child because he is the father or she is the mother are invalid and cannot be factors.

Other than that, the family court can use nearly anything in its consideration, under Pennsylvania law. Additionally, any one factor can completely outweigh the others. The court will be most concerned about any dangers to the health of the child, and, under law, is supposed to give greater weight to factors that affect safety.

For instance, one parent may have more resources, be in better physical shape than the other parent, live in the same town while the other parent has moved away and be better able to provide for the child's emotional and developmental needs than the other parent. However, if that parent has a past history of child abuse, the court very well could award sole custody to the other parent.

The judge can consider criminal history in his or her decision, but it is among many factors considered. A person with a felony record clearly has some strikes against him or her, but it is not necessarily a disqualifying factor. If the court is convinced that it is in the "best interests of the child" to give some form of custody to a felon parent, it may do so.

Back to top

Finding the Best Chester County Child Custody Attorney for Your Case

Our experienced legal team can help you with this tremendously important matter, and protect your family's best intests from your ex-husband or ex-wife. Ciccarelli Law Offices proudly represents clients throughout West Chester, Downingtown, Coatesville, Devon, Lancaster, Lititz, Norristown, Villanova, King of Prussia, Media, Philadelphia, and nearby communities. Call us today at (877) 529-2422 or send an online message for a free consultation.