Can I request custody during a visitation hearing?
I am unable to give you legal advice on divorce. I can give general divorce help for men, though, my knowledge is based on Pennsylvania child custody laws where I am licensed to practice.
There are two types of custody, physical and legal custody. Physical custody is the amount of time that each parent physically spends with a child, and legal custody is the decision-making ability with regard to the child.
Until such time as a custody order is entered with the court, it is presumed that both parents have equal rights to a child, both physical and legal custody. This means that each parent can spend as much time as they wish with the child and must make all major decisions with regard to the child’s health, safety and welfare together.
However, without a court order, neither parent is obligated under the law to seek the other parent’s approval for a custodial schedule or with regard to making major decisions.
Where I practice, depending upon what county your custody action is in, there generally is a mandatory mediation requirement and then at least two hearings before a custody order will be entered.
The first hearing will be before a Master, who is an attorney who hears evidence and testimony, and generally will either issue a final order with regard to custody if it is by agreement or an interim order until the next hearing before a judge.
The next hearing will be before a judge, who may again hear evidence and testimony, and then will issue an order based on their findings.
Typically, a party to a custody action should have made an initial request for custody at the first hearing or by answering the pleading that initiated the custody proceeding. However, in my state, there is no prohibition on making oral motions for custody during a proceeding.
In determining custody, the paramount concern is what is in the child’s best interest. The court will take into consideration many factors when determining what is in the child’s best interest.
The factors include such things as what parent will promote an ongoing and healthy relationship with the non-custodial parent, who has been the primary caretaker of the child, how far apart (distance) the parents are residing from one another, and, dependent upon the child’s age, what the child would want in terms of a custody schedule.
Typically, a parent’s right to custody of their child will not be terminated unless the court finds that the child’s safety would be in danger if the parent has custodial time or unless the parent voluntarily terminates their rights.
Again, until such time as a court order is entered, each parent has equal rights to the child.
Remember, I am unable to provide you with anything more than divorce tips for men, so please consult with divorce lawyers for men in your jurisdiction.