Custody matters are often the most emotional aspect of a Pennsylvania divorce. The personal nature of custody negotiations often mean that parents find it nearly impossible to cooperate with one another and compromise. If the adults in a family can’t reach an amicable resolution to their custody disagreements, then they will rely on a Pennsylvania family law judge to hear about the situation and make a decision based on what would be in the best interest of their children.
According to Pennsylvania state statutes, there are numerous factors that influence a judge’s determination about what children need and, therefore, what custody arrangements would be most appropriate for a family. The following factors typically play a major role in a judge’s determination about the best interest of children.
The relationship each parent has with the kids
The current and prior parenting relationships often have a profound influence on what a judge believes is appropriate for the family. Often, adults who have not served as primary caregivers worry that they will lose custody and may only receive visitation. However, judges will usually try to involve both parents as much as possible even if one has clearly spent more time with the children than the other.
The needs of the children in the family
The age, sex and overall health of the children can directly influence what kind of parental support they require. Older children, like teenagers, may have a harder time relating to the parent of the opposite sex as they go through puberty, for example. The familiarity that each parent has with meeting a child’s special needs can also play a major role in determining what would be in their best interests regarding the division of parenting time and decision-making authority.
The abilities and condition of each parent
Judges will need to hear numerous details about family circumstances, including the current living circumstances and employment arrangements for each of the parents. An adult’s schedule, their criminal record and their health concerns can all potentially influence their ability to meet the needs of the children. Although judges will usually seek to keep both parents highly involved with the children, there are circumstances in which they may determine that one adult should have more parenting time or authority than the other.
Those hoping to secure specific custody terms in a Pennsylvania divorce will often benefit from framing their argument carefully and making the needs and well-being of their children the primary concern. Learning more about what the state requires a judge to review when making custody determinations in contentious cases may benefit adults who are worried about protecting their relationships with the children in their households.