Changes to Pennsylvania custody laws proposed

    A bill changing Pennsylvania child custody laws passed in the state house yesterday with an unanimous vote, and is now on its way to the senate.

    A bill changing Pennsylvania child custody laws passed in the state house yesterday with an unanimous vote, and is now on its way to the senate.

    Pennsylvania lawmakers say this bill addresses several issues that have long frustrated Pennsylvania families. The proposed legislation prevents judges from awarding custody based on gender. Courts also have to disclose their reasons for awarding custody to one party. Grandparents will have more rights and there is stronger recourse against parents violating custody agreements. The reforms aim to make court hearings less contentious, and have a stronger focus on what’s best for the children.

    Representative Kathy Manderino sponsored the bill. She says the new law would require judges to use very specific criteria when making custody decisions:

    Manderino: Which parent is most likely to encourage and permit frequent contact with the other parent, which parental duties each parent has taken, the need for stability and continuity in the child’s education and family life, and then we’re requiring that they put on record the reasons that they made the custody decisions that they did.

    Wayne Family Law attorney Elizabeth Bennett says the bill tackles a lot of important issues – but doesn’t address the biggest problem of them all:

    Bennett: I think this law is a good law, but I think more reform would be accomplished by more attention to the family court system, and more care of the judges who are overloaded and understandably stressed out.

    Bennett says family courts lack resources and judges’ schedules don’t leave enough time to pay attention to important details.

    Members of the Pennsylvania House say they hope the bill will pass in the state senate before the end of the year.

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