If you are a parent who is getting a divorce in Pennsylvania and custody and visitation will be decided in a child custody hearing, you might wonder what factors the judge will consider. First, you should understand that courts generally operate from the assumption that children should maintain a relationship with both parents. The only exception is if doing so could put the child in situations that affect their safety, such as if a parent is neglectful or abusive.
The child’s best interests
Family law courts try to base their decision on whatever is in the best interests of the child. To determine this, they will look at how much various arrangements will disrupt the child’s life and the capacity each parent has to provide for the child physically and emotionally. Sometimes, courts order a child custody evaluation to help ensure that the child is healthy and safe in both homes. Courts may look at what kind of accommodations a parent is able to provide a child although their requirements in this area can vary.
Looking at relationships
The child’s relationship with each parent and the parents’ relationships with one another are also relevant. A court will consider how cooperative parents are with one another. The aim is to make sure that each parent will make an effort to facilitate the child’s relationship with the other parent. Courts might also look at how much day-to-day caregiving each parent provides for the child.
Another thing the court may consider is the wishes of both parents and children, particularly older children. This does not mean that parents or children will necessarily get what they want, but it might help in making the decision. Courts might also make different choices based on the ages of the children, ensuring that younger children have consistency.
You may want to discuss specifics regarding child custody in your jurisdiction with your attorney. Your attorney may also assist you in preparation for the child custody hearing. This could include compiling documents and getting statements from family, teachers or others.