Pennsylvania parents who are deciding on child custody could be faced with a difficult process although every individual case is different. That wasn't always true in the past when the vast majority of custody cases were decided entirely in favor of the mother. Now, courts tend to prefer shared parenting or joint custody arrangements. Experts say that this is due to many changing attitudes over the years.
Working women and a more casual attitude about divorce itself are some of the things that experts point to as reasons for the shift away from defaulting to the mother as the custodial parent. Today, the prevailing attitude is that children are best off being raised by two parents whether those parents live together or apart.
Physical or residential custody still tends to go to the mother more often, but legal custody and time actually spent with the children are likely to be pretty even these days. Courts in most states start with a presumption of joint legal custody, which means that both parents have a say in decisions about the kids' education, healthcare and other important matters.
Courts tend to have similar attitudes about child custody in cases where the parents have never been married, but courts aren't involved as often as they used to be. Today, most child custody decisions are made through mediation without the need for going to trial.
Mediation aims for a child custody arrangement that both parents agree to, so the need to go to court and have a judge decide is eliminated. In mediation, each parent is represented by his or her own attorney. After child custody is settled, if any conflicts arise, parents might choose to hire a parent coordinator. This is usually a lawyer who is hired by the parents jointly and helps them resolve problems in their custody arrangement.