Breast feeding in Custody Disputes

Breast-feeding alone is not a reason to grant custody to the Mother over the Father in a custody dispute. In J.R.M. v. J.E.A., 33 A.3d 647 (Pa.Super. 2011), the court granted Mother primary physical custody based exclusively on the fact that the parties had poor communication and Mother continued to breast feed the child. Father was subsequently able to successfully appeal the trial court’s order. Father pointed out the court’s failure to consider all the factors as listed under Section 5328 of the custody statutes. Section 5328 mandates that courts consider all of the listed factors relating to the best interests of the child when entering a custody order.

The relevant factors for consideration include the following: (1) which party is more likely to promote a continued relationship with the other parent; (2) any present or past abuse within the respective households; (3) parental duties performed by each parent; (4) need for stability in the child’s education, family life, and community; (5) extended family relationships; (6) sibling relationships; (7) preference of the child if mature enough to offer; (8) attempts to withhold the child or poison relationship with other parent; (9) which party is more likely to foster a loving, consistent, nurturing environment; (10) which party is more likely to attend to the daily and special needs of the child; (11) proximity of residences; (12) actual availability to care for child or ability to make alternate arrangements; (13) level of conflict between parents and/or ability to co-parent; (14) present or past drug or alcohol abuse; (15) present or past mental or physical health concerns; (16) any other relevant factor. Criminal background is also relevant for all adult household members. The procedural requirements now mandate each party to submit a criminal history verification at the onset of a custody matter as well.

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