How Does the Court Decide Child Custody?

Good parents will do anything for their children. Lawsuits affecting a parent-child relationship are detailed and filled with heightened emotions. The court must determine what is in the child’s best interest amidst a complex process that can create seemingly unbearable feelings for parents.

Having competent family law attorneys by your side is crucial at a time like this. Experienced family law lawyers can provide you with an objective, professional approach to child custody proceedings so you can focus on caring for the needs of your children. The Family law attorneys at Henry & Beaver have been representing clients in Lebanon, PA and surrounding counties for over 100 years and have helped many families through the difficult process of divorce and child custody disputes.

What Types of Child Custody Does PA Have?

The rules and categories governing child custody differ by state. In Pennsylvania, child custody laws permit the state to award families legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody dictates who can make major life choices, such as medical needs and educational paths, for the child. An individual may be awarded sole legal custody or shared legal custody.

Physical custody refers to the control ofand responsibility forthe child. It can include shared physical custody, partial physical custody, supervised physical custody, or sole physical custody.

Sole custody refers to a situation in which one parent or guardian has total physical and/or legal custody over the child. Shared custody is when both parents share physical and/or legal custody of a child. Shared custody allows each parent to interact and maintain relationships with their child.

How is Custody Determined in Pennsylvania?

Courts in Pennsylvania decide who is awarded custody based on what is in the best interest of the child after the consideration of all relevant factors. If parents cannot settle on an agreement for the court to adopt, the court will issue its own controlling order.

What Factors Do Courts in Pennsylvania Consider in Custody Cases?

In child custody cases, judges must weigh disparate information before granting custody so that children receive the best care possible. Some of these factors include:

  • How much a child may have to change their life. If a child has a stable and consistent life with one parent, the court may grant the other parent custody on a weekend or seasonal schedule.
  • Ability to provide care and meet the child’s daily physical, emotional, and social needs.
  • Availability to care for the child or ability to make suitable childcare arrangements.
  • History of abuse, substance abuse, or additional criminal activity on each parent’s record to help ensure the safety and well-being of the child.
  • Sibling relationships. If parents have children together or with other partners, courts may consider the child’s relationship with the other children to decide where they will stay. Ensuring children can maintain relationships with their siblings and a sense of consistency is important.
  • Any attempts a parent has made to turn a child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence.
  • How well a parent with previous custody and visitation arrangements have performed and provided for their children.
  • Proximity of the residences of the parents.

Sometimes courts ask the children where they would like to live, depending on the child’s age and established maturity and judgment.

When Can a Child Decide Which Parent to Live With?

No specific laws state an age a child may automatically choose which parent to live with in Pennsylvania. Judges may take a child’s wish into account based on their established maturity and ability to reason.

Henry & Beaver is Here for Your Family

Working with the experienced family law attorneys at Henry & Beaver in Lebanon, PA can prepare you and your family for divorce or separation and the decisions that need to be made because of parents splitting up. We have helped many families navigate this challenging landscape. Our family law attorneys know how to find solutions that work best for you and your family. 

If you live in Lebanon PA or the surrounding counties and are going through a divorce or child custody dispute, contact Henry & Beaver and allow us to make this difficult time in your life easier. Schedule a consultation or call us at 717-274-3644.

 [HAE1]Support and custody are two separate things, so I think we should just focus on custody for this article, given its title.