What are my custody rights while I’m getting divorced?

Updated: Feb 19

One crucial issue when considering getting a divorce is custody of your children. Most couples who get divorced always agree on one issue - to do what is best for the kids. However, they don't always have the same ideas on "what is best", which can quickly devolve into a fight. Divorce is always hard, but it’s much harder when you’re worried about how it will affect your children.


Mothers and fathers have the same legal rights to custody of their children as they did before the divorce, until a long-term resolution is achieved by either settlement agreement or a judge's ruling. However, when one parent moves out of the family home, they will necessarily see less of their children than they did before. A custody agreement should be developed before one parent moves out to ensure stability and structure for the children in a tumultuous time. If you feel overwhelmed, Ruppert Law Firm LLC can help draft a custody agreement for you before or during your separation to ensure you don’t lose any of your parental rights.


There are two kinds of custody, physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody means that you have physical control over the child. In Pennsylvania, physical custody is usually shared between the two parents. However, even if your spouse is awarded physical custody, you often still have legal custody as long as both parents can cooperate to make decisions for the child. You can help decide where your children attend school, if they receive specific medical care, and what religion they are brought up in.


If you have already moved out of your house, there are several legal issues you may be facing. Your spouse may say you have “abandoned” your family and threaten your custody rights. However, it is very difficult in Pennsylvania for custody issues to be awarded based on your moving out of the marital home unless you are not communicating with your spouse and your separation is prolonged. If your spouse won’t let you see your children during the separation period, we can file an emergency custody order. Your spouse is not legally allowed to restrict your access to your children just because you are getting a divorce or because you moved out.


Child support can be collected during the separation period - neither of you needs to officially file for divorce to collect or submit child support. Typically, if one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, the spouse with the lesser salary is entitled to child support. If you need help filing for child support, please contact Ruppert Law Firm LLC. Child support cannot be demanded or collected without a court order. Also, you can request child support after proving paternity even if you are unmarried.


If you have already signed a custody agreement and are unhappy with the terms, we can help you modify it. Custody can always be modified by a court in the best interests of your children. A change in circumstances, such as a new job or home, is especially helpful if you are hoping to change your child custody arrangement.


Divorce is already complicated enough without worrying about how it adversely affects your children. Please contact us at Ruppert Law Firm if you have questions or need help protecting your rights to your children during a divorce.


Getting divorced is hard. Being divorced is good. We'll get you through it.