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Pennsylvania receives low grade on shared parenting report card

Though Pennsylvania enables parents to share custody, some experts believe the state could do more to encourage co-parenting plans.

Under Pennsylvania law, there are several ways a couple or a court could determine child custody. For example, one parent could receive sole physical or sole legal custody. Alternatively, both parents could participate in shared physical and shared legal custody.

In shared parenting, each parent is able to spend time with the child. Pennsylvania statute notes that under a shared plan, each parent is entitled to "significant" periods of time with the child.

However, that is basically the extent of the law. While other states have put additional measures in place to encourage shared parenting, Pennsylvania still has not. That is why it received a low grade on a recent report card that assessed the issue.

The low grade

The National Parents Organization released a shared parenting report card in 2014 that evaluated every state on its policies. It took into account factors such as whether or not the state's laws clearly allow for and encourage shared parenting.

Based on its assessment, the NPO gave Pennsylvania a "D." The reasons given for the low grade include the following:

· The law does not discern specifically that shared parenting could be granted during the early phases of a separation or divorce.

· There is nothing in the law that encourages shared parenting.

· There is not a statutory preference for shared physical and joint legal custody.

The NPO did not give an "A" to any state. However, several states did receive a B for items including having laws that require, on temporary orders, parents to have equal access to a child unless it would be adverse for the child's wellbeing. Some states require courts to ensure that parenting plans enable both parents to share parenting time and legal decision-making whenever possible.

The bright side

As the NPO points out, shared parenting is important for a child's development and adjustment. Fortunately, custody is trending toward co-parenting. More people and judicial systems recognize the importance of having both parents involved in a child's life. And in Pennsylvania, developing a shared parenting plan is entirely possible. However, parents must be involved in the process, or they risk losing their legal rights.

Judges in Pennsylvania determine custody based on the child's well-being, but will also take into account any abuse, the child's prospective environment and the way each parent interacts with the child and each other. Additionally, state law specifically says that neither party is to be given preference based on his or her gender.

A custody battle can be emotional for everyone involved. People who have concerns about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in Pennsylvania.

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