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How Does Pennsylvania Determine Child Custody?

In Pennsylvania child custody cases, the court's ultimate goal is to provide a fair arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. Divorced parents can work out an agreement on how they want to manage custody together, and typically, the court will approve it. However, some parents do not always agree, especially when it comes to matters dealing with their children. When this happens, the court will step in and issue its own order based on specific factors.

What Factors Determine Custody in Pennsylvania?

In order for the court to determine what custody arrangement will be in the best interests of the child, they look at the factors outlined in Pennsylvania's statutes. According to the statute, there are 16 different factors the court considers in child custody cases.

The factors to consider when awarding custody include:

  1. Which party will encourage and allow the child to have a healthy relationship and frequent contact with their other parent?
  2. Is there or has there been abuse committed by one party or member of their household? Will the child be in harm's way while in the custody of one party, and which party will provide the child with the best safety and supervision?
  3. What parental duties does each party take on for the child?
  4. How will the party ensure the child's stability and continuity of their education, family life, and community life? In some cases, it might be best for the child to stay in the current home and neighborhood.
  5. Are there extended family members available to help care for the child?
  6. Does the child have siblings? The court prefers not to separate siblings, if possible.
  7. The child's preference as long as they are mature and have sound judgment. They do not have the ultimate decision in custody, but the court will consider their opinion.
  8. Has a parent attempted to turn the child against the other parent? (Not including cases of domestic violence where the parent is trying to protect the child from harm.)
  9. Which party is better equipped to provide and maintain a stable, loving, consistent, and nurturing relationship that fosters the child's emotional needs?
  10. Which parent is going to be more likely to assist with the child's needs? This includes their physical, emotional, developmental, educational, and special needs.
  11. How close does each parent live to the other?
  12. Each parent's availability to care for the child or their ability to find proper child-care when they cannot.
  13. How much conflict is there between the parents, and are they willing to cooperate with each other for their child's benefit? (Not including instances of domestic violence.)
  14. Is there any history of drug or alcohol abuse by either party or a member in their household? Substance abuse could put the child in danger.
  15. The mental and physical health of each party and their household members. For the child's safety, their guardian is physically and mentally able to care for them.
  16. Any other relevant factor that may impact the case.

In any custody matter, the Pennsylvania courts will examine these factors in order to determine what custody arrangement will be in the best interest of the child. Additionally, the court places more weight on factors that affect the child's safety.

Speak to a Montgomery County Child Custody Attorney Today

At Testa & Pagnanelli, LLC, our Montgomery County family law attorneys are dedicated to helping families navigate complicated child custody matters. Our skilled team of professionals will work with you to find the best possible resolution while protecting your rights. Do not hesitate to contact our team today if you have any questions about the Pennsylvania child custody process.

We are here to help. Call Testa & Pagnanelli, LLC at (610) 365-4733 for a complimentary initial consultation with our firm.

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