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What are Pennsylvania's laws for deciding custody?

Many divorces involve more than just two spouses. When children are involved, the situation can be tremendously more difficult. These cases can be emotionally trying for parents, children and family members.

Most of the time, each parent believes they deserve custody. But the many factors tied in make for a complex situation. It is not easy decision, so the court takes all matters into consideration. 

Factors relevant to child custody

If the parents are unable to decide on a suitable parenting agreement, the Pennsylvania court settles the order. Their main goal is for the child to be in a stable, loving home. The court considers numerous factors when determining child custody, including:

  • Location and proximity
  • Family relationships
  • Mental and physical conditions of each parent
  • The child's best wishes

The child's best wishes are paramount. The parent who proves to provide stability, a nurturing relationship and is capable of parenting duties stands a good chance in court.

Is gender a factor?

Going into a divorce, some parents worry that the court favors one gender over the other. Pennsylvania's child custody laws include a gender-neutrality provision. This is set in place to break up bias and ensure parents an equal right to custody.

Types of child custody

Joint custody is a common situation when both parents are considered suitable caregivers. This is also typical when two suitable parents have multiple children, and it is important for the siblings to grow up together. The court will not want to separate siblings unless there's a justifiable reason. But if one parent has a history of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, physical and/or mental abuse, the other parent is most likely to receive sole custody of the child.

Consideration of all factors

The court will issue a custody order after weighing all the relevant factors of the case. They will identify the custodial parent. The non-custodial parent - who does not have physical custody - in most cases, receive visitation rights. The court will explain the reasoning behind the decision both verbally and in writing.

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