5 factors that affect child custody cases in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania courts and judges weigh a number of factors when helping couples reach a solution for child custody.

Trying to determine child custody in Pennsylvania may be stressful. There are deep emotional connections and relationships to consider in addition to developing a plan that fits within the constraints of the law. The final outcome could be shared physical custody, primary custody or even sole custody.

Anyone who is facing the possibility of a custody dispute should be aware of how the state makes decisions in these cases. The following are some of the main factors that could come into play:

1. Child's best interests

The reigning factor that applies to child custody cases is what is in the best interest of the child. For example, experts agree that children thrive on routine and stability. Therefore, a court may review which living environment would best fulfill those aspects.

2. Relationships

Of course, a judge would review the child's relationship with each parent, but those are not the only bonds the law addresses. A child's connection to siblings and even extended family may come into play.

Another key relationship is the one between the parents themselves. The law states that a judge may take a look at how the parents interact with each other. For example, are they going to encourage relationships between the child and the other parent?

3. Domestic violence and abuse

A major red flag in custody hearings is related to abuse. That includes domestic violence as well as drug or alcohol problems a parent may have. In those cases, a judge may make a custody decision based on the safety of the child.

4. What the child wants

This factor is largely based on the child's ability to make sound decisions as well as his or her maturity level. However, a judge could weigh the child's living preferences into the final decision.

5. Any other relevant factor

The law leaves room for a court to take into account any other factor that may be relevant to the case. Each parent's mental and physical health may be a consideration, as well as how close the parents live to each other. Ultimately, any aspect that could affect the child may be brought before the court.

Of course, these orders may be modified upon one party petitioning the court. Typically, these petitions are filed based on the best interests of the child. It could be that a parent disputes the judge's decision, or that someone's circumstances have changed and the order needs to be amended.

In any case, people who have questions about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in Pennsylvania.