Children are unique individuals who have different dreams, beliefs, and needs. Even within a Pennsylvania family, siblings may approach life in very different ways; however, that does not change the public policy in Pennsylvania to keep siblings together. It can be hard on parents to provide their children with what they require when their needs can vary and change over time.
Providing a child with what they need whether the child was born in or out of wedlock can be particularly difficult. When parents cannot find common ground on how to share in their parenting duties after their relationship ends, they may turn to a court for a ruling on child custody; in Pennsylvania the court uses 16 factors to determine a child’s best interest and none of the factors are weighed more heavily than the others. When a court takes on this important duty, it attempts to protect the best interests of the children who will be impacted by its decision.
The best interests of a child
Caring for a child takes more than just providing them with what they need to survive. While food and shelter are necessities for any living thing, children require love, support, and growth opportunities in order to foster their best lives. The 16 best interest custody factors put significant emphasis on the stability and continuity of the life of the child and the parental duties carried out by each parent, of which encompasses the child’s emotional, educational, medical, and physical permanent welfare. Those factors can include but are not limited to which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact with the other parent, the relationships of the family members, whether one party has attempted to thwart the relationship between the child and a parent, the proximity between the parties’ residences, whether there is a history of domestic violence and or drugs and alcohol abuse, and even the preferences of the child when such preference is based in “good reasons” with a consideration of the child’s age and maturity.
No gender preferences in custody
In the past, there was a traditional presumption that mothers would forego careers in order to raise the children of their families. In 2011 this presumption died out. In Pennsylvania, parental gender does not factor into how and to whom child custody is granted. In fact, Pennsylvania is one of the few states to recognizes that the nuclear family has significantly changed, to include, grandparents, aunts, and third parties that “step into the shoes of the biological parent.”
The paramount concern in custody cases is the child’s best interest. Every custody case is decided on a case by case basis which makes it impossible to predict the outcome of a child custody case based on the outcomes of other families. Individual family law advice from a Pennsylvania divorce and family law attorney with knowledge and experience as it relates to custody cases can help parents understand what may happen in their own child custody cases.