Father's Rights in Pennsylvania Divorce Law

By Candice Geier
Divorcing a spouse does not mean that a father is divorcing his children.
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Divorce happens, but a father does not lose his rights just because his marriage didn't work. It is in the best interest of a child to spend time with both parents. During the beginning of a divorce it may be common for a father to not see his children until court orders are in place. In Pennsylvania, fathers will only lose parental rights if certain conditions exist.

Federal Laws

Under federal rules, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will make custody orders in the best interest of children. Children thrive the most when they have access to both parents. Although the federal court recognizes that a two-parent home is best for children to be raised in, they also recognize the rights of parents who wish to divorce. A father's rights during divorce hearings are constitutionally protected, but a father may have to wait until a custody order is in place for full access to his children.

Custody Orders

When filing for a divorce in Pennsylvania, part of the procedure a father may have to go though to exercise his rights is to fill out a parenting plan and ask for appropriate custody. The courts favor when a father is willing to share joint custody with the mother. By filing for shared legal custody, a father is recognizing the rights of the mother and the best interest of his children. The different custody orders applicable in Pennsylvania are shared physical custody, primary physical custody, partial physical custody, sole physical custody, supervised physical custody, shared legal custody and sole legal custody.

Denial of Rights

In Pennsylvania, a father may be denied some or all of his parental rights during court proceedings if he has previously committed a violent or sexual offense. The court will take in consideration the crime committed before making any decisions. In the event that the court finds in favor of the father, he may be awarded some custody rights or visitations. Before a father can visit his children, he will have to see a counselor who will report back to the court. The counselor may check back in on the father and children if the court finds it necessary.


The rights of a father will be determined during divorce proceedings. In Pennsylvania, a father's right to make decisions concerning the welfare of his children will be included in the parenting plans and custody orders. Parenting plans and court mediators help parents come to a reasonable conclusion determining the best interest of the child. The plans will include almost all aspects of how a child will be cared for including medical care, schooling, transportation, religion and living arrangements.

Court Orders

The court will issue a custody order. If the parents do not come to an agreement during mediation, the court will decide in the child's best interest In Pennsylvania, the reason for the order will be expressed openly in court or documented and given to both parents. Once the orders are in place, they must be followed. If the orders are broken, a parent can be held in contempt of court. The sentencing may include a fine, jail time or probation.

About the Author

Candice Geier has been a journalist since 2008. Her work has appeared in the "Pueblo Chieftain," "Colorado Central Magazine" and on the Colorado State University-Pueblo Today website, as well as in its quarterly magazine. Geier received a Bachelor of Science from Colorado State University, where she was the managing editor for the university magazine.