When a child’s parents break up or divorce, it can be an emotional time for all involved. Parents may be concerned about how much time they will spend with their child following the split, and the child may experience a significant amount of distress. For these reasons, it is important to understand Pennsylvania’s child custody laws.
The types of custody under Pennsylvania law
Under Pennsylvania law, there are several types of custody that have to be decided upon. First, there is physical custody, which is the actual physical possession and control of the child. Physical custody can be either primary or partial. Partial physical custody grants a parent the right to have physical custody of the child for less than 50% of the time. Primary physical custody grants a parent the right to have physical custody of the child for more than 50% of the time. Second, there is legal custody. This is the right of a parent to make major life decisions on the child’s behalf, such as what doctors the child will see, what religion the child will participate in and what school the child will attend.
Child custody factors
Pennsylvania law will not assume that either the mother or the father is the right parent to exercise custody over the child based on their gender alone. Instead, the standard for making custody decisions is the “best interests of the child.” There are several factors that courts will consider when determining what is in the child’s best interests.
First, courts will consider which parent is more apt to encourage and allow the child to have frequent and ongoing contact with the other parent. If domestic abuse or substance abuse is an issue, this will also be considered. What parental duties each party undertook on behalf of the child will also be considered.
Another factor is the child’s need for stability and continuity in their schooling, family life and community. This includes the availability of extended family, the child’s relationship with their siblings and the child’s preference based upon their maturity and judgment.
If one parent tried to turn the child against the other parent, absent cases of domestic violence, this will also be considered. Which parent is more apt to keep up a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child will also be considered. Another factor is which parent is more apt to attend to the daily needs of the child.
How close to one another the parents live will be considered, as will each parent’s availability to care for the child or arrange for child-care. Each parent’s ability and willingness to cooperate with the other parent is another factor. Each parent’s health will be considered. Finally, courts will consider any other factor.
Learn more about child custody in Lancaster
As this shows, child custody are not made lightly. They take careful thought and evaluation, so the child’s best interests can be met. This post is for educational purposes only and does not contain legal advice. Our firm’s webpage on child custody may be of interest to those who want to learn more about this topic.