In Pennsylvania, family law issues can result in rampant disagreement. For many, child custody is a specific point of contention. This can have a personal, emotional and financial impact on a person’s life. It is imperative that the parties consider their options and seek a viable solution. There may be preconceived notions such as the idea that the “mother is always granted custody.” This is not the case. Other parts of child custody could be misunderstood. Grasping the factors involved with child custody is a foundational aspect of any case.

The child’s needs come to the forefront. Barring extenuating circumstances, the court’s goal will be for the child to have meaningful and consistent contact with both parents regardless of the child custody decision. That includes visitation rights. The parents are expected to encourage a relationship with the other parent, avoid undermining it, and adhere to the order. If abuse took place, this is imperative with custody and visitation. The parents are expected to fulfill parental duties for the good of the child. Any child will need a stable environment in family life, schooling and socially. If there are siblings, the parents are expected to encourage that relationship.

Children who are of sufficient age and maturity can be heard when they want to express their preferences regarding custody. The circumstances will determine how seriously the court takes the child’s statement. If a parent is trying to plant seeds of negativity in the child’s mind about the other parent, the court can take this into account. A child is expected to live in a nurturing atmosphere with the basics provided including clothes, education, guidance and child care. The residences of the parents and the proximity is assessed. Many parents will have acrimony stemming from the end of the marriage. This can harm the children and inhibit their development. Courts take this seriously when coming to a decision with custody and visitation. Other concerns can be past substance abuse, criminal records and the parents’ general condition.

Parents who think that gender will be a deciding element should be disabused of that notion. There is no legal justification to give preference to one parent over the other based on gender. In many instances, grandparents are involved in the child’s life and want custody or regular visitation. For this, the following will be weighed: the historic contact between the child and the grandparents; if awarding custody or visitation would interfere with the parental relationship; and if the award serves the child’s best interests.

In child custody cases, it is easy to forget that the focus should be on the child. Still, knowing the law and how it addresses these situations can be a vital aspect of an acceptable resolution. Whether the parties are in an ongoing dispute with allegations flying back and forth or they are on relatively good terms, it is wise to be protected under the law. It is crucial to know the various types of physical custody, the definition of legal custody, and factors that are used to make the determination. It is also wise to have legal protection when dealing with family law matters. Consulting with those experienced in child custody can provide information and advice. This may be beneficial to a case and reaching a positive outcome.