Although going through a divorce is never easy, it is especially difficult when it involves children. Making decisions regarding child custody can be emotionally draining for both parents, and if they cannot come to an agreement, the courts will decide.
Whether the parents or a judge determines a custody agreement, the biggest factor that goes into the decision is what is in the best interest of the child.
General information about child custody
According to FindLaw, in the state of Pennsylvania, parents can come up with their own parenting agreement to present to the court. If the court approves of the agreement, it becomes effective right away.
Although it is less contentious if the parents can agree about physical and legal custody of the child, not all former spouses can make these tough decisions. If this is the case, a judge will review the case, listen to evidence from both parties and make a child custody order.
Best interest considerations
Generally, a judge will award joint custody as long as both parents are competent and capable. To determine this, the judge will look at factors that are best for the child. The Child Welfare Information Gateway discusses some of the considerations the court looks at:
- The physical and mental health of parents and child
- Academic, emotional and physical needs of the child
- Current living situation
- The ability of each parent to provide a safe and loving home
- The child’s relationship with siblings and other relatives
- Presence of abuse in the home
Even if a judge gives sole custody to one of the parents, he or she will give the other parent visitation rights, unless there is a significant safety issue.