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How are custody decisions made?

Parents going through a divorce in Pennsylvania need to consider what custody arrangements are best for the children. The state encourages parents to come to an agreement together, but if they are unable to do so the court will get involved.

According to FindLaw, there are specific steps parents must go through once they file a custody petition. Each party involved in the dispute must attend a seminar that covers co-parenting and tips on how to help the child during this challenging time. If the children involved are aged six to 15, they are also required to attend a group session in which they discuss their experiences. The next step for the adult parties is a mediation session where a third party assists the parents in coming up with a plan for both physical and legal custody. If they can agree, and the court approves, it is accepted as an official court order. If the two parties cannot come to an agreement, the case goes to trial.

In case of a trial, the judge will make a decision based off what is best for the child. However, the Women's Law Project discusses some preparations each parent can make to help his or her case. This includes witnesses who have seen positive interactions as well as medical or school records that show a parent has been involved in the child's appointments and activities. The judge also considers:

  • Mental and physical conditions of each parent
  • Who can provide a stable and loving environment
  • Which parent can best meet the needs of the child
  • Extended family availability
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • The preference of an older and mature child


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