How is Custody Decided?

If you have children, and are going through a divorce or separation a major thought on your mind is probably what is going to happen with the kids? Who is going to get custody? How is custody decided? What are the different types of custody schedules? These are all very valid and important questions and I know these thoughts can cause anxiety, fear and worry as well. This will give you a little overview on how custody in Pennsylvania is decided to inform you of more information and try and answer some of your questions.

There are several factors that the courts in Pennsylvania consider when deciding on custody. The standard the court uses to determine overall is the best interest of the child. The court will always consider what is in the best interest of the child when determining custody. Using the standard of the best interest of the child there are 16 factors that the court will look to when trying to determine custody. The following are the 16 factors the court will use look to:

  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
    • They will look which parent actively promotes a relationship with the other parent. The courts do not like to see that one parent is preventing or intentionally hurting the relationship between the other parent and child.
  • The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
  • The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
    • They will look at who takes them to school, helps with homework, schedules and takes them to doctor’s appointments. Basically what the parties do for parental duties.
  • The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life.
  • The availability of extended family.
  • The child’s sibling relationships.
  • The well reasoned preference of the child.
    • Depending on the child’s age and maturity a Court may consider their opinion as part of the decision. The decision will not solely be based on the opinion or preference of the child but could be considered.
  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in the cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
  • Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
  • Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
  • The proximity of the residences of the parties.
  • Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child care arrangements.
  • The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and abilities of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
  • The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member’s of a party’s household.
  • The mental and physical condition of a party or member of party’s household.
  • Any other relevant factors.
    • The Court will consider any other relevant factors in order to determine what is in the best interest of the child.

These sixteen factors are what the Court considers when determining custody of a minor child. At a hearing evidence is presented and a Judge will consider that evidence with these sixteen factors. If you find yourself in a custody situation in Bucks County and need representation please call our firm today to schedule your free consultation.