If a divorced couple can’t reach an agreement, courts in Pennsylvania determine who gets custody of a child based on the “best interests” standard. The judge has the responsibility of determining what will best suit the child’s needs. There are a few factors that are taken into consideration when determining the child’s best interests.
One of the first things the judge will consider is if the parent requesting custody will be able to meet the child’s needs, both physical and emotional. This would include providing medical care, food, clothing and shelter for the child. It would also include providing them with an education and parental guidance. Most judges prefer to keep a child’s routine consistent. This includes the child’s school routine, their living arrangements and their ability to visit extended family. Judges often try to limit changes as much as possible in order to make the transition easier.
It is common for judges to defer to a parent who has been a primary caregiver to the child throughout their life. Younger children need more hands-on care and often have a stronger bond with their primary caregiver. In some cases, the child’s wishes may be considered. If a judge feels a child is in danger, it is likely that custody would be denied to the potentially dangerous parent.
By partnering with a family law attorney a parent may prove that having sole custody is in the child’s best interests. The family law attorney could represent their client in divorce proceedings, draw up visitation schedules in custody cases and argue for their fitness as a parent.