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What do courts consider when awarding child custody?

Whether you have recently filed for separation or have thought about filing for divorce, there are a number of topics to consider. For many people, one of the most daunting matters is child custody.

While you may be able to create a custody arrangement with your spouse through mediation, many rely on the court to determine what type of custody is best for the child. If you face a child custody arrangement or dispute, it is helpful to know how the process works.

What factors come into play?

When determining the best custody situation for the child, the court will consider several factors. According to the Pennsylvania state statutes, child custody factors include the following:

  • The role of each parent in taking care of the child
  • Relationships the child has with siblings
  • The emotional, mental and physical wellbeing of each parent
  • The parent’s ability, including time, health and finances, to care for the child
  • The living environment of each parent and how it can benefit the child
  • Any history of drug use, alcohol use or abuse with either parent

Pennsylvania is a gender-neutral state, meaning all decisions made are based solely on the criteria and not whether the parent is the mother or father.

What if your situation changes?

Child custody is set based on both parents’ situations at that point in time. As time goes on, life circumstances change, and the custody arrangement that was previously set may not work anymore. If one parent cannot meet up to their end of the agreement or the child’s needs change, the court can review the custody agreement and make changes if necessary.