Pennsylvania parents who are going through a divorce may wonder whether or not they need to get a custody order. Some parents prefer to avoid getting the courts involved and simply make an informal agreement with the other parent.
However, parents should keep in mind that even if they are the primary caregiver for their child, they will not necessarily be considered to have legal custody. A parent in such a situation might still avoid filing for custody in order to keep the other parent from making a custody claim as well. If this happens, a judge would make a decision based on the child’s best interests.
There are other advantages to having a custody order in place. In addition to protecting the rights of a parent who is already in the process of caring for and raising the child, a custody order might enable a parent to get custody back from the other parent. A custody order also allows for enforcement of a regular visitation schedule. Without a custody order, both parents may have rights to make decisions about the child’s health, education and other issues while a custody order may give that right to only one parent.
Domestic violence or other situations may also affect whether a divorcing parent wishes to seek a custody order. In these and other situations, the advice of a family law attorney can be beneficial. For example, a parent may feel that because the divorce has been amicable, a custody order is unnecessary. However, this means that if circumstances change and one parent remarries or wishes to move or the parents have a disagreement about issues like the child’s health, they may lack the legal protection a custody order could provide.
Source: WomensLaw.org, “Custody”, Jan. 8, 2015