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How Pennsylvania determines child custody

On Behalf of | Jun 23, 2020 | Child Custody

Pennsylvania laws ensure that both parents have the right to spend significant time with their children after a relationship ends. In fact, the state specifically prohibits judges from considering gender when determining custody. 

Before negotiating an agreement with your child’s other parent, learn more about Pennsylvania’s custody requirements. 

Types of Pennsylvania custody  

The law uses the term legal custody to describe each parent’s right to make educational, medical, religious and other important decisions on the child’s behalf. The court can grant legal custody to one parent or shared legal custody to both parents. 

Primary physical custody means the child lives with one parent most of the time. With shared physical custody, the child splits time between both parents’ residences, though not necessarily equally. When one parent has primary custody, the other parent will usually have partial physical custody. This arrangement allows for weekend or weekly visits. When the court orders visitation, the parent has a right to spend time with the child without physical custody. Supervised visitation requires the presence of a court-approved individual during visits. 

Best interest of the child standard 

When parents cannot reach a custody agreement on their own, they can ask the court to make a determination. The judge will consider the child’s best interest when creating a fair arrangement. Factors in this determination may include: 

  • The wishes of the child 
  • The physical and mental health of both parents as well as the child 
  • The proximity of parent residences 
  • The child’s existing family connections 
  • Each parent’s involvement in caring for the child thus far 
  • Each parent’s willingness to foster a healthy relationship between the child and the other parent 
  • Whether either parent has a history of neglect or abuse 

In general, the court strives to maintain a stable environment for minor children whenever possible. Sometimes, the court will order parents to mediation so they can attempt to negotiate a fair custody agreement with the help of their attorneys.