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How are child custody decisions made in Pennsylvania?

For couples who are divorcing, child custody may be on the top of their list of concerns. Most couples will want to know what to expect from the child custody process and what it will mean for them and for their children. Because child custody can be an emotionally challenging aspect of any divorce, it is helpful to know how the family law process works and how child custody is determined in Pennsylvania.

The family law court will determine child custody based on what is in the best interests of the child. The family law court will evaluate any factor that impacts what is in the best interests of the child, placing a special focus on the child's safety and factors relevant to the child's safety. The court will take into account any history of abuse; if either parent has a history of drug or alcohol abuse; or if either parent has a criminal history related to certain criminal charges.

Additionally, the court will consider which parent is more likely to encourage continuing contact between the child and the other parent and permit frequent contact; which parent is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child; and which parent is most likely to attend to the child's daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child. The court will also consider the child's preference; the child's relationship with siblings; and the need for both continuity and stability in the child's education, community and family life.

There are a variety of concerns related to how child custody is determined in Pennsylvania but the family law process always focuses on what is in the best interests of the child. With that focus in mind, parents can negotiate a child custody and visitation settlement that works for their family and is best for their child and can access available family law resources when doing so.

Source: FindLaw, "Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws," accessed on Aug. 7, 2017

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