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What factors are considered when child custody is awarded?

Parents in Pennsylvania who are embroiled in a child custody dispute need to be aware of how the law will come to a decision as to which parent will be granted custody. There are numerous factors that will be scrutinized when the determination as to what is in the best interests of the child and a parents' relationship with children. All issues will be considered with certain ones being given more weight than others. Those who are preparing for a custody battle or are in the middle of one should have an idea as to how the decision will be made.

The state will look at the following factors: which parent will be more encouraging and permissive of contact between the child and the other parent; whether or not there was abuse in the home, if the child will be placed at risk with continued contact, and if safeguards have to be implemented; what duties parents fulfill on the child's behalf; how important it is for there to be a stable atmosphere with continuity as to how the child is educated, the family life, and social life; how the extended family will be involved; and if there are siblings within the family.

There are other factors that will be taken into account such as: if the child has a preference and is of sufficient age and maturity to express it; whether one parent is taking steps to turn the child against the other parent in cases other than ones in which there is domestic abuse involved and protective measures are required; which parent has the greater capacity to provide a sound relationship and loving home to adhere to what the child needs emotionally; which parent can handle the daily requirements of caring for a child; how near or far the parents live from one another; the availability to take care of the child or make adequate arrangements for the child's care; and whether there is continuing conflict between the parents.

Drug or alcohol use, mental and physical capabilities; and other relevant factors will also be taken into account. Clearly, there are many situations that must be part of the process when a decision is made. Having a grasp of these as well as the state laws with help from an attorney experienced in child custody is key in these situations.

Source: legis.state.pa.us, "5328. Factors to consider when awarding custody.," accessed on Oct. 28, 2015

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