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How Does a Pennsylvania Court Decide Who gets Custody of a Child or Children?

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How Does a Pennsylvania Court Decide Who gets Custody of a Child or Children?

When a parent realizes that he or she wants or is facing a divorce, one of their first concerns is often who will get to have custody of the children. For many parents, their children are the center of their world and they would do anything to further their child’s best interests. However, parents in today’s world realize that child custody determinations are anything but foregone conclusions. The father, the mother, or both parents can be awarded custody on the basis of the child’s best interests. Therefore, it is essential in any divorce and custody determination that you show the court that you represent best option to provide for the development and growth of your child.

The Philadelphia child custody lawyers of Sadek & Cooper are strategic litigators who can help you achieve your child custody determination goals. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call our firm at 215-814-0395 or online today.

What types of Child Custody Can a Court Order?

Before one delves into the decisional framework a family law court will use to make a child custody determination, it is essential to understand the different types of custody that exist. As a starting point, it is useful to break custody down into two forms: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the legal right to make decision and engage in other important actions for you child. Physical custody is concerned with whom the child will physically live with and spend the majority of his or her time.

Determinations regarding legal custody can generally result in an order for shared custody or for sole custody. In a shared legal custody situation, more than one parent or guardian has the right and duty to make important decisions regarding the child’s education, healthcare, and general well-being. By contrast, when sole custody is ordered, only one parent or guardian will have the right to make important decisions regarding the child’s life.

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Physical custody arrangements are more numerous than sole custody arrangements. Types of physical custody that can be ordered by a Pennsylvania court are:

  • Sole custody – Only one parent will have physical custody of the child. One party has physical custody over the child at all times.
  • Shared custody – A shared custody arrangement can permit for both parents to physically watch over the child at different times. The arrangement can result in each party having a relatively equal amount of time having physical custody over the child. In other partial/primary one party will act as the physical custodian of the child for the majority of the time.
  • Supervised custody – In certain situations where the courts may be hesitant to grant shared custody but wishes for a parent to retain a role in their child’s life, supervised custody may be ordered. In these circumstances, a court-appointed monitor will supervise the interactions between the party and the child.

What Factors does a Pennsylvania Court use to Decide Custody?

While a judge in a Pennsylvania court will utilize 16 factors, including a catch-all provision, to make a custody determination, it is important to note that “the best interest of the child” predominates the analysis. Furthermore, a judge must provide greater deference to the factors relating to the health and safety of the child. For instance, the court will certainly consider which party is more likely to provide a stable household where the child can develop. The court will also assess the relationship of the parents or parties including whether one party is likely to attempt to turn the child against the other (parental alienation) and which parent is more likely to encourage continuing contact between the child and other party. The judge will also assess risks to the child such as a parent’s alleged history of abuse of the child or abuse of alcohol or drugs. The court will also assess the mental and physical condition of each party and any relevant factor likely to impact the best interest of the child.

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Since the custody determination is highly subjective and multi-faceted, it is essential for a party to present significant and compelling evidence showing that they can care for the needs of the child fully and are the party most likely to provide for his or her best interests. Since some spouses believe that they can gain leverage in other aspects of a divorce through custody determinations, it is important to always be prepared to illustrate how you can best protect the child’s interests.

The family law and custody determination lawyers of Sadek & Cooper may be able to fight for your goals in a divorce and ensuing child custody determination. To schedule a free and confidential consultation regarding child custody or child support, call our Philadelphia child support lawyers at 215-814-0395 or online today.

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