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Many Pennsylvania families awaiting end to child custody disputes

In 2010, the Pennsylvania legislature revised the state's laws regarding child custody. It is now necessary for an evaluation to be performed if the parent who wants custody of a child -- or anyone living with that parent -- has a criminal record. This requirement has created a backlog, and some families are waiting a year to have their child custody case heard.

This addition to the custody act may have been well intentioned, but it seems to be causing more problems than solutions for many families. This is particularly troublesome to families who do not have the financial resources to speed up the process or attend mediation. However, some families are caught in this backlog because they have not been able to reach an agreement on their own.

Of course, no one wants to see a child go into the home of someone with a violent criminal record, but some criminal records are benign and do not necessarily need to be a factor in whether that parent receives custody of the child. Children need stability and structure. Giving children these things is not always possible when a custody battle rages on for as long as it appears to in Philadelphia right now. Cities and towns across Pennsylvania may be experiencing similar backlogs.

If possible, this delay in a resolution of a child custody dispute by the courts could be avoided. Parents who are able could put aside their differences with each other and negotiate a custody arrangement with a mediator. The process may be faster, which would let everyone involved -- especially the children -- get on with their lives as soon as possible.

Source: CBS Philadelphia, "Yearlong Backlog in Philadelphia Child Custody Cases", Pat Loeb, May 8, 2014

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