Manslaughter Convictions and Child Custody in Pennsylvania

Q: Can a parent regain child custody after a manslaughter conviction?

If you are considering getting divorced in Pennsylvania, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will need to agree on how your marital property will be divided and whether one of you will pay spousal support or alimony to the other.  If you have minor children together, you will have to agree on child support, custody, and visitation. If the couple can’t agree on the terms, a family court judge will decide.

In Pennsylvania, child custody refers to both the legal and physical custody of minor children. While physical custody refers to where the child physically resides, legal custody refers to the rights and responsibilities of making legal decisions that impact the child’s upbringing. This decision-making power covers such matters as education preferences, religious practices, medical treatments, extracurricular activities, and more. In general, courts prefer that both parents share custody, so long as that is in the best interest of the child.

While child custody is most often an issue in divorce cases, it may also become an issue for couples who are not getting divorced.

Recently, a Berks County couple was criminally charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the death of their two-year-old daughter. The child reportedly died from “a treatable form of pneumonia” after the parents did not seek medical treatment due to their strong religious beliefs.

The couple reportedly “gave up custody” of their six other children. The children are reportedly being cared for by another family and it’s unclear whether Children and Youth Services (“CYS”) will be “moving for adoption” or whether the couple may be able to regain custody.

Against the recommendations of CYS which sought jail time for the death, the judge spared the grieving parents jail time based on their apparent “change of heart” and professed willingness to seek medical treatment and maintain health insurance for their remaining children. They were reportedly sentenced to probation.

If you are considering divorce or need assistance with a child custody case or any other family law matter, the Law Office of Gary R. Swavely, Jr. can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

From our office in Reading, Pennsylvania, we’ve been serving clients in Reading and the surrounding counties in all matters of family law for over 25 years.