When you face the end of a relationship and have children together, questions about child custody arise. Pennsylvania law establishes the rules for dividing parenting time in this situation.
Review these common child custody considerations if you have thought about separating from your child’s other parent.
Types of custody
Pennsylvania recognizes physical and legal custody. Legal custody means you make important decisions for your children, such as choices about school, health care and religion. Physical custody describes where the child lives most of the time. Parents can opt to share both legal and physical custody, an arrangement called joint custody. The court may also award one parent primary physical and/or legal custody.
Factors in custody determinations
If you request a custody hearing, the judge in your case will consider a range of factors to determine the arrangement that serves your child’s best interest. These factors are considered by the court in Pennsylvania:
(1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
(2) 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.
(3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
(5) The availability of extended family.
(6) The child’s sibling relationships.
(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
(8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
(10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
(11) The proximity of the residences of the parties.
(12) Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability 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.
(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
(15) The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
(16) Any other relevant factor.
You can also agree on a custody order with the other parent outside of court. However, you may also want to submit this order for approval so that it becomes legally binding.