What Does

People ask me all the time, “How do judges decide child custody disputes?” Well, here are the factors, as set out in 23 Pa. C.S.A. §5328 of the Pennsylvania statutes, that the court will consider when making a custody determination. The court asks this question: What custody arrangement is in the best interest of this particular child?

The court considers these factors in making its decision, with special consideration given to the factors that affect the safety of the child:

  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party
  • 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
  • The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child
  • The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life
  • The availability of extended family
  • The child’s sibling relationships
  • The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment
  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm
  • Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs
  • Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child
  • The proximity of the residences of the parties
  • Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements
  • 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 a child from abuse by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party
  • The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household
  • The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household
  • Any other relevant factor

The final factor leaves the door open for other important considerations not mentioned in the statute. Call me in Pittsburgh at 412-567-6143 to set up a time to meet and discuss your particular circumstance and how these factors apply. You can also reach me through email.