By: Marshall Chriswell, a Pennsylvania child custody attorney
As a lawyer handling family law issues in Pennsylvania, divorced or separated parents often ask me if they need a child custody order. My answer is often yes, and here is why:
Usually when parents separate, there is no custody order in place. In some rare cases, the parents are friendly enough to work out an informal (unwritten) custody arrangement with no problems. More often though, a custody order will be necessary. The worst time to obtain a custody order is after a problem arises.
What are the benefits of having a custody order?
- A custody order spells out the rights and obligations of both parties, which can reduce or eliminate disputes.
- A custody order involves more than just physical custody time. It can address most issues related to the upbringing and well-being of the minor child.
- A custody order is a court order signed by a judge. The court can and will enforce it by finding a non-compliant party in contempt of the order. If there is no custody order, there is nothing to enforce.
- When a party is found in contempt, a judge may order the other party to pay your attorney’s fees, attend parenting classes, permit make-up time with the child or even serve probation or jail time.
Compliance with child custody orders is mandatory. However, it is important to understand that custody orders are not permanent. Either party can ask the court to modify the order at any time, particularly if circumstances change or a different arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
Child custody orders can be flexible, and they can be tailored to the agreement of the parties. Even if the parents agree on a custody arrangement, it is advisable to have a custody order in place in case a dispute arises.