West Chester, PA 19380
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Lee Ciccarelli is the founder and managing partner of Ciccarelli Law Offices with over two decades experience as a practicing attorney.
These locations are available by appointment only
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.