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How a court determines child custody

Parents in Pennsylvania who get a divorce must make a decision about child custody. If they are unable to do so, then the case will go to court, where the judge will make a decision. A judge often grants physical custody of the child to the parent that was the primary caregiver.

The court takes several factors into account when determining which parent was the primary caregiver. These may include considering who was responsible for the child's daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, and feeding; dealing with his or her medical care; and communicating with the teachers. The court also may consider how much time each parent spends on leisure activities with the child.

In some situations, the parents may share these responsibilities. The court will then make a decision based on what is best for the child. When making a determination, the court will consider the health of the parents, the child's adjustment to the community and school, the stability of the home environment, and the child's relationship to others in the household. The court also may take the child's preferences into account depending on his or her age. Any evidence of abuse or addiction will affect the decision.

Usually, it is the aim of a court to ensure that a child is able to build a relationship with both parents after a divorce. However, an abusive or addicted parent may affect a child's well-being, and in these cases, a court may limit or even prevent a parent's access to a child. For example, the parent may only be allowed visitation when supervised by a social worker. Someone with substance abuse problems may need to successfully complete a treatment program to gain more access to his or her child.

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