If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, deciding who will have custody of your children may be one of your biggest concerns. In the past, courts may have been more inclined to award primary physical custody to the child’s mother, but that is no longer the case. Nowadays, the courts are solely focused on doing what is best for the child.
In the state of Pennsylvania, courts will make custody decisions based on the best interests of the child standard. Under 23 Pa. C.S. Sec. 5328, there are about 16 factors courts will look at when deciding what child custody arrangement will best benefit your child on a physical and emotional level.
Generally, the court will evaluate both parents, and determine which parent is more likely to meet the child’s emotional needs, to maintain stability in the child’s education and family life and to keep up with the child’s daily needs. The court will also consider the relationship between the child and his or her siblings and determine which parent is more likely to encourage relationships between the child and extended family members and other parties.
The stability of the child’s parents and relationship between them is also important. The court will consider the mental and physical condition of both parents, as well as anyone living in their households, and look at whether either parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence. The court will also consider whether the parents can get along or whether one parent will try to sabotage the child’s relationship with the other parent. If it is reasonable to do so, the court will also consider the child’s opinions on where they want to live.
With so many factors for courts to consider, it may be helpful to have a family attorney on your side to help present your case clearly. At the end of the day, it is important for you and your ex to put personal differences aside and do what is best for your child.