How does the Court determine which parent a child will primarily live with?

PRIMARY CUSTODY

As a Reading Child Custody Attorney, Attorney Joe Guillama is often asked how the Court will determine which parent the child will live with and how often the child will see the other parent. The Pennsylvania Legislature has enacted 15 clearly defined factors for the Court to analyze when determining a custodial schedule for both parents. Specifically, 23 Pa.C.S.A. Section 5328 is called "Factors to Consider When Awarding Custody". That statute states "In ordering any form of custody, the Court shall determine the best interests 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 a child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect a 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 the 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 the party's household.
  15. The mental and physical condition of a party or a member of a party's household.

It is important to understand that this is not an exhaustive list of factors for the Court to consider. Essentially, the Court can consider any relevant evidence when fashioning a custody schedule. It is clear, however, that the Court cannot enter a Final Custody Order without clearly addressing each of these factors.

Should you have any questions as to exactly how the Court might determine a custody schedule in your case, feel free to contact Berks County Child Custody Attorney Joseph A. Guillama.