Factors Considered in a Child Custody Dispute
In Pennsylvania, the Court is required to evaluate sixteen factors in determining a child custody arrangement. The 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.
(2.1) The information set forth in section 5329.1(a) (relating to consideration of child abuse and involvement with protective services).
(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.
It may come to a surprise to many Pennsylvania couples that one parent is not presumed to be the primary custodian of the children. In fact, the court cannot give preference based on gender in determining a child custody award. See 23 Pa.C.S.A. Sec. 5328(b).
It also important to note that while the court is to give consideration to the preference of the child there is no magical age where a child gets to choose the parent with whom they will reside. Instead, the court will give weight to the well-reasoned preference of the child and consider things like the age and intellect of the child in deciding how much weight to place on the child's state preference. The important thing to remember is that neither parent should engage in any effort to alienate the child from the other parent.
Contact us today for a consultation to help you determine your rights under the Child Custody Act.