16 Factors Pennsylvania Courts Consider in Child Custody Cases
When you and your child’s parent separate, whether you’re married or not, you want to maintain a strong, loving relationship with your children, no matter where they live. That is one reason why most parents, when they split up, end up negotiating and agreeing to a parenting plan outside of court. But when parents cannot reach an agreement, a Pennsylvania court will make custody decisions.
In child custody cases, the judge is required by state law to analyze the family situation. He or she must consider 16 factors, specified in Pennsylvania’s custody law, when determining how to allocate parenting time. These factors are as follows:
- The importance of each parent encouraging and permitting frequent and continuing contact with the other parent
- Which party can better provide for the safety and supervision of the child, giving consideration to any history or abuse in a parent’s household
- What duties are performed by each parent on behalf of the child
- The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education and family life
- The availability of extended family and the role they play in the child’s life
- The child’s relationship with his or her siblings
- The child’s preference for living with one or the other parent, depending on the child’s maturity and judgment
- Whether one parent has attempted to turn the child against the other parent
- Which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship
- Which parent can best tend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child
- The distance between the parents’ residences
- Each parent’s availability to provide or to make appropriate arrangements for child care
- Any conflict between the parents and their willingness to cooperate with one another
- Any history of drug or alcohol abuse by a parent or member of a parent’s household
- The mental and physical health of each parent
- Any other factor relevant to determining custody
These factors don’t all receive equal weight. In fact, the last “catch-all” factor may be the most important, since it gives judges wide discretion in making child custody decisions. The job of a good Pennsylvania family lawyer is to present your case in a way that addresses every factor clearly, so the judge can make a fair and reasonable custody and visitation schedule that protects your child and your parental bond.
The Law Offices of Jennifer Courtney, P.C., provides skilled and caring representation for clients in all types of custody disputes. From initial custody determinations to modifications and relocation issues, our attorneys are here to help. For a consultation, please call our Yardley office at 215.493.3360 or contact us online.