Generally, family courts across the nation focus on what’s best for the children — not the parents — when it comes to determining child custody and visitation arrangements.

Pennsylvania state law does provide family courts in the state with some guidance regarding which decisions are in the child’s best interest. These guidelines fall under several categories:

  • Emotional health: State law instructs judges to consider the stability of each parent’s home and the level and quality of interaction between parent and child, along with the extent to which each parent was involved in childcare before and after separation. Courts also consider the strength of sibling relationships.
  • Physical health: The health and safety of a child are always of great concern to judges. Therefore, they will never place a child in any home where there is a risk of physical violence or other substantial harm. Courts usually determine it is in the children’s best interest to split the time they spend with each parent, unless a physical or safety threat exists.
  • Practical information: How far is it from each parent’s home to school or extracurricular activities? What types of job responsibilities does each parent have? How many children of what age are in each home? These are all examples of practical questions Pennsylvania judges may examine.
  • Communication: Family courts will carefully consider the parents’ ability to effectively cooperate and communicate with each other in a civilized manner. Thus, it’s important to be cordial and flexible when interacting with the court and the other parent.

If the child has demonstrated an appropriate level of maturity, Pennsylvania judges are also allowed to consider the child’s preferences. However, rarely will this be the determining factor in a child custody decision.

For further guidance on developing a child custody arrangement that is in the best interests of your kids, call Matthew R. Zatko, Attorney at Law at 814-483-7075 or contact us online to schedule a consultation appointment.