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Q. What if one parent is not abiding by the custody order?

A. If there is an order in place regarding the custody of your children, and the other parent is not abiding by that order, you can present a petition for contempt of the court order and ask the court to hold that parent in contempt, or request compliance/enforcement of that court order.  You should consult with an attorney regarding the provisions of the court order and whether it is beneficial to seek court intervention.


Q. What if the other parent is not allowing me to see my children?

A. Assuming there is no court order in place, and the other parent is withholding custody, you should consider filing a custody complaint and proceeding through the custody process.  Sometimes, it is beneficial to also present a motion to the court asking for an interim custody arrangement as you proceed through the custody process. The procedures for obtaining an interim or final custody order may differ from county to county, so you should consult with an attorney regarding your options, especially if there is an emergency situation.


Q. I want to move with my children out of the state, can I do this?

A. Pennsylvania law requires that the other parent consents to the move, or that a court order permits the move.  Failing to follow the proper court procedures or moving with the children prior to consent of the other parent or court order, can result in significant consequences to the relocating parent, including forcing the relocating parent to return to the children’s prior home.  You should consult with an attorney regarding the required steps to receive court permission for the move prior to doing so.


Q. At what age can my child decide who he/she/they wants to live with?

A. There is no statutory age in Pennsylvania when a child can make this decision.  However, under Pennsylvania law, a child’s well-reasoned preference, based upon age and maturity, is only one of the 16 factors a court considers in making a custody determination.  You should consult with an attorney regarding the custody factors and how a child’s preference may impact your case.


Q. When is a child emancipated and no longer considered a minor?

A. In Pennsylvania, a child is no longer considered a minor and/or subject to a custody court order, once he/she/they reach the age of 18 and graduate from high school, whichever date is later.  There are circumstances in which a child may not be considered emancipated, even if these conditions are met.  You should consult with an attorney if you have concerns about a child reaching the age of emancipation and how that will impact a custody and/or support action. 

Q. How many times can a custody order be modified?

A. The court does not employ a standard or set a specific number of times that a custody order can be modified before a child reaches the age of emancipation.  However, you should consult with an attorney regarding the frequency of modifications and how that can impact your case.


Q. What is the difference between legal and physical custody?

A. Legal custody is the ability to make any and all decisions related to the major development of the child, including religious, medical and educational decisions.  This responsibility may be shared by the parties, or in limited circumstances, only one parent may have this right.

Physical custody is the amount of time the child is in the physical custody and control of each parent.  This is usually determined by where the children spend the night, and with which parent, as well as how often the children are physically with a particular parent. 

Legal disclaimer: The information provided in these FAQs is for general informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for personal legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Further, legal advice cannot be given without full consideration of all relevant information relating to an individual’s specific situation. No attorney-client relationship is formed, nor should any such relationship be implied.

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