Like many other states, Pennsylvania requires courts to consider the child’s best interest above all else.
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The court will use the best interests of the child standard when determining custody. This means that the court will consider the following factors: which parent would be more likely to encourage continuing contact between the child and the other parent; whether there has been family abuse or a history of drug or alcohol abuse by either parent; which parent would provide a more loving and stable environment; and any other factors the court considers important.
If the parents don’t agree on custody, the court may require each parent to submit a parenting plan laying out that parent’s proposal for care and custody of the child. The parenting plan would include a schedule of parenting time, child care and transportation arrangements, and any other important decisions involving the child. The judge would base the custody decision on the competing parenting plans.
In Pennsylvania, there are special rules regarding a parent relocating with the child. Generally, in order for one parent to move with the child, the other parent must consent to the move or the court must approve of the move. If the other parent does not consent to the move, then a hearing will take place to establish whether the relocation or a modification of the custody agreement is appropriate. At the hearing, the parent who wishes to move with the child has the burden to show the court that the move would be in the best interests of the child. The court would consider how the relocation will impact the child and the child’s relationship with the other parent and how the parents expect to preserve that relationship. The child’s preference would also be taken into account.
When parents are divorcing, if they aren’t able to agree on how to share parenting responsibilities after the divorce they look to the courts for a custody decision. Each state has its own rules about deciding disputes over child custody.
Like many other states, Pennsylvania requires courts to consider the child’s best interest above all else. (23 Pa C.S.A. § 5328.) To help determine what is in the child’s best interest, courts analyze a long list of factors.