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Important information about child custody laws in Pennsylvania

When a married couple with children decides to bring their marriage to a close, important questions need to be answered with regard to child custody. In some cases, parents are able to come to an out-of-court agreement as to the terms of child custody arrangements; however, this is not always possible.

In child custody cases that involve heated disagreements, it is vital for parents to familiarize themselves with Pennsylvania law. The Pennsylvania Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act governs child custody matters in our state, and judges will adhere to this law closely when deciding a child custody dispute.

According to the law, Pennsylvania judges must consider the parents' wishes, the wishes of the children and -- most importantly -- the best interests of the children when presiding over a child custody matter. In our state, joint or "shared" custody is commonly awarded to both parents. Also, grandparent visitation rights may be recognized in many cases. However, every family and every case is different, so these outcomes are not guaranteed.

When deliberating a case, Pennsylvania courts will weigh all relevant facts, and any issues that could affect the safety of the children will be considered more heavily. Factors weighed by the courts could include which parent is most likely to:

-- Support continued contact between the children and the other parent

-- Foster a stable, loving and nurturing relationship with the children

-- Tend to the daily needs -- physical, emotional, health and educational -- of the children.

Pennsylvania parents who have questions about their child custody proceedings and their rights as a parent may wish to speak with a legal professional regarding their unique situation. This will help parents evaluate where they stand in their cases and the best way to preserve their parental rights in a case.

Source: FindLaw, "Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws," accessed Nov. 19, 2015

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