Child custody can be a complex and complicated matter for any individual involved in a custody dispute. When your custody matter goes before a judge, the judge is charged with crafting a custody order that is in the best interest of the child. When the judge makes his or her determination on what is in the best interest of the child, he or she must consider 16 different custody factors in Pennsylvania.
These custody factors are as follows:
1. Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.
2. The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.2.1 The information set forth in section 5329.1(a) (relating to consideration of child abuse and
involvement with protective services).
3. The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.
4. The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.
5. The availability of extended family.
6. The child’s sibling relationships.
7. The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.
8. The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.
9. Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.
10. Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child.
11. The proximity of the residences of the parties.
12. Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.
13. The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.
14. The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.
15. The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.
16. Any other relevant factor.
Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.
The Custody Act does not provide specified weights that a judge needs to place on each of the 16 factors, however, the court traditionally weighs certain factors higher than others. The safety and welfare of the child is often given significant weight, as is a parent’s ability to provide for the child’s needs (i.e. emotionally, financially, by providing appropriate supervision, etc.). The preference of the child can also be given significant weight, however, numerous factors are taken into account when assessing how much weight is placed on a child’s preference. The age and maturity of the child is very important in determining the amount of weight a judge will place on a child’s preference. The preference of a 16 year old will likely be given significantly more weight than that of a 7 year old. The reasons justifying a child’s preference is also of paramount importance. If a child’s preference is to live primarily with one parent so that he or she can spend more time with half-siblings or because he or she prefers a specific school district due to its academic superiority over the other parent’s school district, the court is more likely to place greater weight on the child’s preference. If, on the other hand, a child’s preference is based upon one parent having more toys for the child to play with or because one parent is a better cook, the court is unlikely to place significant weight on the child’s preference. Different judges also have certain tendencies regarding how they weigh the custody factors, which makes it important to retain an attorney who has experience with the judge assigned to your case.
If you find yourself in need of a custody attorney, contact an experienced attorney with Mooney Law today. Our attorneys have extensive experience providing high quality representation in custody matters and getting the best results for our clients. Mooney Law has 16 offices spread throughout Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland, and we can meet you at an office that is most convenient for you. Call Mooney Law today to schedule a consultation at 833-MOONEYLAW or at 717-200-HELP.