Sometimes when parents end their marriage, it is difficult for them to agree upon who should have custody of the children. The court uses a "best interests" and welfare of the child standard to decide which custody arrangement will be best for the children. The court also takes into account various other factors, which include the desires of all parties involved; the age and health of the parties; the history of domestic violence, if any; and the relationships with siblings and other extended family members.

In some situations, joint custody can work. Joint custody works best when parents are non-hostile and very cooperative. It is also easier to facilitate when the parents live close to each other.

There are two different types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is determined by which parent has the children in their "possession". Legal custody is determined by which parent (or commonly both) has decision making power in deciding important aspects of the child or children's upbringing.

Below is an extremely abbreviated and summarized version of part of what the Pennsylvania Pa.R.C.P. and/or Pa.C.S.A. provides regarding custody in Pennsylvania.

(Please note that this content may not be continuously updated, and thus may not contain the most recent updates and/or revisions of the Pennsylvania laws and supplemental information. This information is provided for overview and information purposes, and is not meant to be legal advice. It is always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney, who utilizes much more than the following information, including caselaw, statutory law, and other resources to provide legal advice.):

The general rule is that custody be awarded as is in the best interests of the child(ren).

§ 5328. Factors to consider when awarding custody

(a) Factors.-- In ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

  • (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.
  • (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.

(c) Grandparents and great-grandparents.--

  • (1) In ordering partial physical custody or supervised physical custody to a party who has standing under section 5325(1) or (2) (relating to standing for partial physical custody and supervised physical custody), the court shall consider the following:
  • (i) the amount of personal contact between the child and the party prior to the filing of the action;
  • (ii) the award interferes with any parent-child relationship; and
  • (iii) the award is in the best interest of the child.
  • (2) In ordering partial physical custody or supervised physical custody to a parent's parent or grandparent who has standing under section 5325(3), the court shall consider whether the award:
  • (i)  with any parent-child relationship; and
  • (ii) in the best interest of the child.

 For legal help with your Pennsylvania Custody matter, please contact Pittsburgh custody lawyer Bethany L. Notaro, Esquire.