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What factors are weighed when custody is decided?

A child custody dispute can be extremely nerve wracking. Indeed, there is nothing more stressful than not knowing whether you will be able to stay in contact with your children, or not knowing how your parental rights will eventually be decided in such a case. Although nothing can completely resolve this tension until a settlement or decision is reached in a child custody dispute, a little bit of education on the topic of what factors are considered by Pennsylvania courts in a child custody case can certainly help.

First and foremost, courts will always keep the best interests of children in mind when making their decisions. As such, all factors that will affect a child's safety and best psychological interests will be given priority in a child custody case.

In the context of the best interest of the child, courts will evaluate which of the parents is most likely to grant continual and frequent contact between the child and the other parent. Courts will also consider any record of past abuse and whether the child will be at risk of being harmed by that parent. Another important consideration is the parenting roles played out by each parent prior to separating, leading up to and during the child custody proceedings.

Courts will honor the child's need to receive a stable and continual education, community life and family life. It will also consider whether extended family will be present in the child's life and the child's ability to live with and maintain contact with siblings.

The above factors are some of the most important, but courts will evaluate much more when making a determination. Ultimately, the more parents learn about Pennsylvania law, the better able they will be to navigate their child custody proceedings.

Source: Pennsylvania Families' and Children's Equality, "Child Custody Laws," accessed Aug. 13, 2015

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