Our Mercer County child custody attorneys often hear from clients who walk into our office believing some common myths about PA child custody laws. Therefore, today we bring you Child Custody Myths: Debunked!
1. Mom will always get custody of young children. FACT OR FICTION? FICTION
The custody of young children is determined by the same standard as any other child custody determination: the best interest of the child. Therefore, a court MUST take into account a series of statutorily-specified factors to determine what the custody schedule should be. It used to be the case that there was a presumption in favor of the mother, called the “tender years doctrine.” This was because of the belief that the mother is best suited to care for children at a young age. This presumption was abolished several years ago, however, and now there is no presumption in favor of either parent. In fact, there is a developing preference for shared custody (both parents with substantial time with the child.)
2. If a parent doesn’t get child custody, they don’t have to pay child support. FACT OR FICTION: FICTION
Child custody and child support are separate legal determinations. One has no bearing on the other, except for a possible downward child support deviation for shared custody. Even if the parent doesn’t get much child custody time, they are still obligated to pay child support, unless their parental rights have been terminated. Similarly, even if a parent is months and months behind on their child support payments, they are still entitled to time with the kids, and the parent who is not receiving child support is not allowed to withhold the child for non-payment of support.
3. The parent with primary custody gets to make all decisions for the child(ren). Fact or Fiction? COULD BE EITHER
Physical custody is only one kind of custody. There is also something called legal custody, which is separate from physical custody. Legal custody means the ability to make decisions for the child relating to education, health care, and religion, among other things. Physical custody means who is physically in control of the child at a specific time. A court will generally award shared legal custody if parents have a minimum level of cooperation. This means that a parent can have the child living with them only some of the time and still have full say in any major decisions relating to the child’s well-being while in the other parent’s physical custody. If they do not have a level of minimum cooperation, then a court may also award legal custody to only one parent.
If you have any questions regarding Mercer County child custody, contact our experienced team today!