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AWARDS: $2,350,000 award to automobile accident wrongful death plaintiffs • jury acquittal – double criminal homicide • $1,000,000 award to motorcycle accident wrongful death plaintiffs • jury acquittal – criminal homicide • $465,000 award to medical malpractice plaintiff • jury acquittal – criminal homicide, recklessly endangering another person, neglect of a care dependent person • $325,000 federal jury verdict, UIM and insurance bad faith award to automobile accident plaintiffs • jury acquittal – attempted criminal homicide • $300,000 award to medical malpractice plaintiff • jury acquittal- attempted criminal homicide, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon • $300,000 award to automobile accident/ products liability plaintiffs • jury acquittal – homicide by vehicle while DUI, homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault by vehicle DUI, aggravate assault by vehicle • $115,000 award to truck accident plaintiff • jury acquittal – murder, rape • $100,000 non-jury trial verdict to facial laceration plaintiff • jury acquittal – 1st degree Murder (capital case) • $90,000 award to premises liability/slip-and-fall plaintiff • jury acquittal – DUI, terroristic threats, carrying firearms without a license • $440,000 award to civil rights violation plaintiff • jury acquittal – theft, receiving stolen property • $135,000 award to civil rights violation plaintiff • jury acquittal – possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance (PWI) • $636,000 jury verdict in plaintiffs’ medical malpractice case • jury acquittal – indecent assault, indecent exposure • $550,000 award in plaintiffs’ personal injury case • juvenile case acquittal- solicitation to commit aggravated assault, aggravated assault of unborn child • $250,000 award to mass transit accident plaintiff • jury acquittal – theft, receiving stolen property, conspiracy • $130,000 award to premises liability/slip-and-fall plaintiffs • court-appointed appellate counsel – Supreme Court of Pennsylvania reversal of rape conviction • $465,000 award to automobile accident plaintiff • jury acquittal – aggravated assault • $125,000 award to automobile accident plaintiff • jury acquittal – DUI • non-jury acquittal – dismissal of armed robbery charges • $170,000 award to automobile accident plaintiffs • successful jury verdict in defense of attorney charged with legal malpractice in professional liability case • $140,000 award to injured bicyclist plaintiff • non-jury acquittal – dismissal of 2 counts of criminal homicide • $180,000 award to employment discrimination plaintiff • jury acquittal – indecent exposure • non-jury custody trial – award of primary physical and legal custody of minor to paternal grandparents over natural mother • juvenile decertification petition granted to criminal homicide charges – release at age 21 • non-jury custody trial – award of primary physical and legal custody of minor to father • jury acquittal – DUI • $90,000 award to automobile accident plaintiffs • non-jury custody trial – award of primary physical and legal custody of minor to mother • $50,000 jury verdict for plaintiff- passenger in automobile accident case • non-jury custody trial – award of primary physical and legal custody of minor to father • hung jury – Arson trial (no criminal punishment imposed) • $265,000 award to premises liability plaintiff • jury acquittal – delivery of a controlled substance • $125,000 award to premises liability plaintiff • jury acquittal – DUI • $190,000 award to products liability plaintiff • $150,000 award to premises liability/construction accident plaintiff • $750,000 award to prison medical malpractice and civil rights violation plaintiff • $90,000 award to automobile accident plaintiffs • $108,500 award to automobile accident plaintiff • $80,000 award to automobile accident plaintiff • $150,000 award to truck accident plaintiffs.

Family Law

Child Custody

Pennsylvania Child Custody Lawyers

The custody of minor children frequently is a major, if not the paramount and most contentious, legal issue in family law litigation.  The custody, welfare and best interest of  minor children is a primary concern not only of parents, but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as well. On November 23, 2010, after more than two decades, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania overhauled its custody statute and the factors that are regarded as relevant in determining the best interest of the child and who is to be awarded child custody.

Trust Charles Law Offices to help you with your Child Custody and Family Law Questions

At Charles Law Offices, we are all about family. We recognize that child custody and  related family law issues often are emotionally charged, exact a heavy psychological  toll upon litigants and their families, and can be a time of great sadness, anxiety, and distress.  Resolving legal issues involving the custody of children at times may seem overwhelming and intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be that way.  The lawyers at Charles Law Offices are here to help you through this difficult time.

For nearly 40 years, Attorneys Fredrick E. Charles and Dennis G. Charles of Charles Law Offices have successfully represented clients in child custody and related family law matters, helped them to negotiate and resolve difficult legal issues, and turned contentious situations into amicable and optimum outcomes.  At Charles Law Offices, we will stand by you throughout the child custody litigation process, keep you informed of relevant legal issues, and help you make the decisions that are right, and most beneficial, for you and your family.  And on those occasions when an amicable resolution of child custody issues  cannot be reached,  it helps to have on your side attorneys each with nearly 40 years of legal experience, preeminent and  distinguished legal reputations,  and an impressive track record of success in child custody litigation.

some QUESTIONS THAT ARISE IN CHILD CUSTODY LITIGATION

Child custody litigation involves questions concerning many legal and factual issues. The following are some questions that litigants in a child custody case typically ask:

What are the different types of child custody?

“Physical custody” is the actual physical possession and control of a child.

“Legal custody” is the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.

“Child”  is defined as an unemancipated individual under 18 years of age. 23 Pa.C.S. §5322.

The court may award any of the following types of custody  if it is in the best interest of the child:

  • Shared physical custody: the right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.
  • Primary physical custody: the right to assume physical custody of the child for the majority of the time.
  • Partial physical custody: the right to assume physical custody of the child for less than a majority of the time.
  • Sole physical custody: the right of one individual to exclusive physical custody of the child.
  • Supervised physical custody: custodial time during which an agency or an adult designated by the court or agreed upon by the parties monitors the interaction between the child and the individual with those rights.
  • Shared legal custody: the right of more than one individual to legal custody of the child.
  • Sole legal custody: the right of one individual to exclusive legal custody of the child. 23 Pa.C.S. §5322.
Who has “standing” in Pennsylvania to file an action for any form of physical or legal custody of a child?

Pursuant to 23 Pa.C.S. §5324, only those individuals who have “standing” are permitted to file an action   in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for any form of physical custody or legal custody of a child. Individuals with standing to pursue physical custody or legal custody of a child in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania include:

  1. A parent of the child.
  2. A person who stands in loco parentis to the child.
  3. A grandparent of the child who is not in loco parentis to the child:

(i) whose relationship with the child began either with the consent of a parent or the child or under a court order;
(ii) who assumes or is willing to assume responsibility for the child; and (iii) when one of the following conditions is met:
(A) the child has been determined to be a dependent child under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters);
(B) the child is substantially at risk due to parental abuse, neglect, drug or alcohol abuse or incapacity; or
(C) the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, in which case the action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home.

Do Grandparents and Great-Grandparents have Standing to Seek Partial Physical Custody and Supervised Physical Custody?

In addition to the factors set forth above, grandparents and great-grandparents may file an action for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody in the following situations.

(1) where the parent of the child is deceased, a parent or grandparent of the deceased parent may file an action for partial physical custody or supervised physical custody of the child;
(2) where the parents of the child have been separated for a period of at least six months or have commenced and continued a proceeding to dissolve their marriage; or
(3) when the child has, for a period of at least 12 consecutive months, resided with the grandparent or great-grandparent, excluding brief temporary absences of the child from the home, and is removed from the home by the parents, an action must be filed within six months after the removal of the child from the home. 23 Pa.C.S. §5325.

What additional factors are considered by the court in cases which involve Grandparents and/or Great-Grandparents?

The court considers the following factors in determining whether to order physical custody or supervised physical custody to a grandparent or great-grandparent:
(i) the amount of personal contact between the child and the party prior to the filing of the action;
(ii) whether the award interferes with any parent-child relationship; and
(iii) whether the award is in the best interest of the child. 23 Pa.C.S. §5328(c)
In ordering partial physical custody or supervised physical custody to a parent’s parent or grandparent who has standing, the court must consider whether the award interferes with any parent-child relationship and is in the best interest of the child.  23 Pa.C.S. §5328(c)

Are there any “presumptions” concerning primary physical custody?

As between parents, there is no presumption that custody should be awarded to a particular parent. 23 Pa.C.S. §5327(a).  However, as between a parent and a third-party, there is a presumption that custody shall be awarded to the parent, but this presumption may be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. 23 Pa.C.S. §5327(b).

What factors are considered by the court when awarding custody?

In ordering any form of custody, the court must determine the best interest of the child by considering all factors. The court gives weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

  1. Which  party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
  2. The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
  3. The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
  4. The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
  5. The availability of extended family.
  6. The child’s sibling relationships.
  7. The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
  8. The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
  9. Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
  10. Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
  11. The proximity of the residences of the parties.
  12. Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
  13. The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect the child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
  14. The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
  15. The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
  16. Any other relevant factor.   23 Pa.C.S. §5328.
What role does “Gender” play in a child custody award?

In making a child custody determination, the court is prohibited from granting any preference based upon gender.  23 Pa.C.S. §5328 (c).

What consideration is given by the court to a party’s “Criminal Conviction?”

Where a party seeks any form of custody, the court must consider whether that party or member of that party’s household has been convicted of,  or has pleaded guilty or no contest to,  any of the  criminal offenses enumerated in 23 Pa.C.S. §5329, or to a  substantially equivalent criminal offense in another jurisdiction.

The court, when considering a  party’s conviction for any of  the offenses enumerated in 23 Pa.C.S. §5329 and before making any order of custody to that parent, must provide for an initial evaluation to determine  whether that party poses a threat of harm to the child, and whether counseling is necessary for that party or household member. 23 Pa.C.S. §5329(c).

If the court deems counseling to be necessary, it must appoint a qualified professional specializing in treatment relating to the particular offense to provide counseling to the offending individual. Counseling may include a program of treatment or individual therapy designed to rehabilitate the offending individual which addresses, but is not limited to, issues regarding physical and sexual abuse, the psychology of the offender and the effects of the offense on the victim. 23 Pa.C.S. §5329(d).

Does the court require the parties to submit “Parenting Plans” prior to awarding custody?

The court may require the parties to a contested custody case to submit parenting plans for the care and custody of the child to assist the court in resolving the custody dispute. These parenting plans are not admissible as evidence by another party. The contents of the parenting plan shall include the following:

  • The schedule for personal care and control of the child, including parenting time, holidays and vacations.
  • The education and religious involvement, if any,  of the child.
  • The healthcare of the child.
  • Child-care arrangements.
  • Transportation arrangements.
  • A procedure by which proposed changes, disputes and alleged breaches of the custody order may be adjudicated or otherwise resolved through mediation, arbitration or other means.
  • Any matter specified by the court.
  • Any other matter that serves the best interest of the child. 23 Pa.C.S. §5331.
May the court order the parties to attend “informational programs” or “counseling” as part of a custody order?

The court may direct the parties to attend informational programs concerning parental duties (23 Pa.C.S. §5332) or counseling sessions (23 Pa.C.S. §5333).  In situations involving abuse, the court may order individual counseling for the abuser but may not order the parties to attend joint counseling.  23 Pa.C.S. §5333(b).

What records and information may a party granted sole or shared legal custody be provided access to?

A party granted sole or shared legal custody shall be provided access to: (1) the medical, dental, religious and school records of the child; (2) the address of the child and any other party; and (3) any other information that the court deems necessary or proper.   23 Pa.C.S. §5336.

You can rely upon Charles Law Offices to achieve the optimum result for you in your child custody litigation.

The lawyers at Charles Law Offices are here to help you with your child custody case. So, if you, or a family member, have questions concerning child custody or other family law matters, give Charles Law Offices a call at 610-437-7064, or fill out the screen questionnaire.  Our staff of highly experienced, trained, and knowledgeable trial attorneys is here 24/7  to guide you through this troubled time, and help you with all of your child custody and  family law questions and issues. Don’t settle for anything less!

 

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with a lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the attorneys at Charles Law Offices.

Have questions concerning child custody or other family law matters?

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"Charles Law Offices represented me in my child custody and support case. This was my first time needing a lawyer. When times were difficult for me and I was upset and worried, Attorney Charles was there to explain everything to me and was very understanding."

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A Family History of Devotion to
Law and Public Service

The Charles Brothers’ devotion to the law is derived from a family history in the legal system and of service to others. Their father, Charles “Chink” Charles (depicted in the lower left-hand corner of the photograph) held a 35 year career in law enforcement, and was selected to serve as the personal bodyguard for former United States Presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon and Lyndon B. Johnson during their campaign visits to Allentown.

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