Custody of minor children is often a matter that both parents feel strongly about. So, how does the court determine a custody arrangement? The law in Pennsylvania looks at what is in the “best interest of the child.” Courts look at many factors to determine the best interest standard. These factors include:
(1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
(2) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
(3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life, and community life.
(5) The availability of extended family.
(6) The child’s sibling relationships.
(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
(8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
(10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
(11) The proximity of the residences of the parties.
(12) Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
(15) The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
(16) Any other relevant factor.
See Pa.C.S. 23 Section 5328.
There are two types of custody; Legal and Physical. Legal custody is often shared. Legal custody is defined as “the right to make major decisions on behalf of the child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.” See Pa.C.S. 23 Section 5322. Physical custody can be either 1) sole, 2) primary, or 3) shared. Sole physical custody provides one the right to exclusive physical custody of the child. Primary physical custody gives one the right to physical custody for of a majority of the time. Shared physical custody awards custody to more than one individual for a significant period of time.