What factors do Pennsylvania courts consider when determining child custody?

At the end of a marriage, divorcing couples have many details to consider. How will the court divide their property? How can they protect their finances? What documents should be updated to reflect their new life? For divorcing parents, perhaps the most important—and possibly the most contentious—details are those surrounding custody of their children.

What types of child custody do Pennsylvania courts recognize?

Generally, there are two types of child custody in Pennsylvania: legal custody and physical custody. Physical custody involves the daily care of a child. This includes who the child lives with and who has responsibility for the child’s daily needs.

Legal custody, on the other hand, is the right to make decisions that will impact the child’s life. This can include decisions about where they will go to school, what medical care they receive and their religious upbringing.

Will one parent have sole custody, or will both parents share custody?

Pennsylvania courts generally determine child custody based on the best interests of the child. This sometimes involves one parent taking primary custody of the child, though often parents will share custody of their children. Both physical custody and legal custody of a child can be shared, depending on the circumstance.

What will the court consider when determining child custody?

While determining a custody arrangement based on the best interests of a child may seem simple, the court may consider a wide variety of different factors to create a child custody arrangement. These can include:

  • The duties that each parent performs to care for the child
  • Which parent is more likely to offer the child the emotional support they need
  • Where the parents live
  • The child’s relationship with each parent and their extended family
  • The child’s medical or educational needs
  • The child’s preference
  • Any history of abuse

Because a wide variety of factors may influence a child’s custody arrangement, it can be important for divorcing parents to speak to an experienced attorney. Their legal guidance can help parents protect their rights and their relationship with their children.


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