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How do the Pennsylvania family courts make custody decisions?

Concerns about the division of custody almost always top the list of what divorcing parents worry about. No parent wants to find out that they no longer get to spend a fair and reasonable amount of time with their child after a divorce. Especially when emotions run high, it’s easy to worry that your ex will try to damage your relationship or prevent you from spending time with your kids.

Concerns about divorce’s custody implications are often so strong that couples may become particularly aggressive in the hope of protecting their parental rights. If you understand how the Pennsylvania family courts handle custody decisions, you will likely feel more comfortable as you move forward with a divorce.

Pennsylvania focuses on the best interests of the child

While family members can set their own terms for an uncontested divorce, a judge is the one who will have the ultimate say in all of the major issues for the family. They set the terms of the order in a contested divorce or approve the suggested custody arrangements in an uncontested divorce.

When it comes to custody decisions, the primary factor that should guide and judge decisions will be the best interests of the children. While this standard is a little unclear, most judges will presume that having both parents involved in their life will be in a child’s best interest unless there is some kind of evidence of abuse, neglect or inability to provide care on the part of one parent.

For most families, there is a presumption of shared custody

Although it is typically impossible to split custody down the middle, judges presiding over a divorce with minor children in Pennsylvania will take every precaution necessary to preserve both parental relationships. Job responsibilities, the age and needs of the children, pre-existing parental relationships and numerous other concerns will influence how a judge rules.

Even if one parent has been the earner and the other the caregiver, both can typically seek and receive a share of parenting time with their children. While asserting your parental rights and desire to stay close to your children is important in a Pennsylvania divorce, you typically don’t have to worry about the total loss of your parental relationship unless there is evidence that your presence could harm the children.