Although coming to a mutual custody agreement with your co-parent is ideal, it’s not always possible. The child custody attorneys at Thomas, Conrad & Conrad help clients understand how non-custodial parents’ visitation rights may play out depending on the specific circumstances. Learning about the different types of child custody and visitation in Pennsylvania can help you make the most of the time you spend with your children and protect their interests.
Types Of Custody In Pennsylvania
When awarding child custody and visitation, Pennsylvania courts consider several factors to determine what’s in the best interest of the child. Also called shared custody, joint physical custody is an arrangement in which both parents spend time with the child. It’s not always 50/50, and both parents may also have legal custody, which gives both of them the right to make important medical, educational, and religious decisions for their children. When one parent has primary physical custody, the co-parent and other family members may be granted visitation.
Judges rarely grant sole custody with no visitation. As long as it is safe for the children, courts encourage both parents to spend quality time with their children. Grandparents may also petition for partial custody and visitation. If parents are unmarried, the father may have to prove paternity.
What Is Visitation?
Visitation is the right to see and spend quality time with your children. Visitation rights are usually awarded to non-custodial parents in Pennsylvania, except when it may be harmful or dangerous for the children. In these cases, a court may award supervised visitation.
Custody And Visitation Schedules
A good family law attorney may be able to help you and your co-parent reach a custody and visitation agreement on your own. If one parent has primary physical custody of the children, a visitation schedule should be outlined in this agreement. Your custody and visitation agreement may include:
- A schedule that specifies where the children will reside during the week and on weekends
- The days and times visitation begins and ends
- Transportation arrangements to and from visitation
- A schedule dictating which holidays and vacations the children will spend with each parent
- Specifics about how a non-custodial parent may be involved with their children, such as at sporting and school events
What If You Can’t Agree On Custody And Visitation?
If you’re unable to come to a reasonable agreement on your own, a judge will determine a custody and visitation schedule. Whether you’re the custodial or non-custodial parent, it’s important to keep in mind that it is illegal to deny visitation in violation of a valid court order. A custodial parent is not allowed to deny visitation because the co-parent didn’t pay child support or simply because they don’t believe the child should spend time with them. Conversely, a non-custodial parent is required to follow the terms of the order and may not withhold the child from the custodial parent. For either party to amend any custody or visitation agreement, they must petition the court.
When a non-custodial parent is deemed unready to spend time alone with their children, supervised visitation may be granted. Supervised visitation is not taken lightly by courts in Pennsylvania. Some common reasons supervised visitation may be ordered include a history of child abuse, domestic violence, and drug or alcohol addiction.
Supervised visitation can be conducted in several ways. Visits must be supervised by another adult, who may be a neutral party like a social worker or a trusted friend or relative who ensures the well-being of the child is protected. Regardless of who supervises visits, that person will be responsible for documenting the parent’s and child’s behavior and progress.
Once a supervisor has been selected, the location where visits will take place is decided. In many cases, supervised visitation can be in a relative’s or friend’s home. In some cases, the court may determine that visits need to take place at a visitation center such as a family or human services organization. This type of supervised visitation is typically mandated when there is a history of abuse or a risk of the parent absconding with the children. If visits go well over time, you may petition the court to amend your child custody order to allow for unsupervised visits.
Contact A Child Custody Attorney To Learn More About Visitation Rights
If you have questions about child custody and visitation rights, our experienced family law attorneys at Thomas, Conrad, and Conrad can help. Call our Bethlehem office at 610-867-2900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. We serve clients throughout eastern Pennsylvania.