Families in Pennsylvania dealing with custody disputes after separation or divorce face difficult changes. Children are often the most affected, with complex living and visitation arrangements potentially affecting their ongoing development and stability.

According to Erie News Now, a new child custody bill proposed recently in Pennsylvania may significantly impact divorcing or separating families by establishing a presupposition that children of divorced couples should spend approximately 50% of their time with each parent. House Bill 1397 would work to change the paradigm of child custody laws. The law is currently a custodial model, where one parent has official custody. Only about 15% of custody decisions give equal parenting rights. In the proposed model, children would spend around 40-60% of their time with each parent, both having equal physical and legal custody.

Proponents claim that equal time with each parent would help children stay out of trouble and do better in school. Detractors note that equally splitting up a child’s time can affect the child negatively, because the frequent shuttling between households impacting scheduling and stability. Currently, judges determine each child custody case by looking at 16 factors, individually adapting to the nature of each case. If HB 1397 passes, judges would be able to make exceptions and award less equal custody, but the new law would require them to submit their reasoning in written form.

Children and families dealing with custody disputes may soon find laws changing before or during litigation. It may be helpful for these families to discuss their situation with custody attorneys to help them better understand the changes if HB 1397 becomes law.

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