A guide to contested custody cases in Pennsylvania

If parents in Pennsylvania cannot agree on their children’s welfare and living arrangements, they will have to go to court and have a “contested” custody battle. In these cases, the judge will make a decision based on what he or she believes is in the best interests of the child and the parent’s rights.

Court-appointed Special Advocate (CASA) and Guardian ad Litem (GAL)

In Pennsylvania, the court may appoint a special advocate (CASA) to investigate and make recommendations about what is in the child’s best interests. The CASA may talk to the parents, the children, teachers, counselors, doctors and other people who know the family and then make a report to the judge with their recommendations.

GAL has similar duties as the CASA, but they are attorneys the court appoints to represent the child’s interests. The GAL does not work for either parent; instead, they aim to ensure that the court hears the child’s preference and puts their best interests first when making custody decisions.

The judge may also talk with the children

The judge may also interview the children after they have had ample time living with each parent separately to get their opinion about which home they feel more comfortable in. The child’s age and maturity may play a role in the judge’s decision.

When you don’t agree with the judge’s decision

If you do not agree with the judge’s child custody decision, you have the right to appeal. In Pennsylvania, you have 30 days to file an appeal after the judge issues a custody order. An appellate court will review the case and decide whether or not to overturn the original decision.

No parent ever wishes for contested child custody, but if you believe this is what’s best for your child, consider preparing adequately. You should know the law and how it may affect your chances of winning custody. Typically, a judge may take into account factors such as your ability to provide a stable home environment for the child, history of drug use or domestic violence, past relationship with the child, and other factors.