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Child Custody in Pennsylvania

August 24, 2012

In the Best Interests of the Child

fun with bubbles.jpgWhen parents work cooperatively in divorce, children will fare better. In an ideal world divorcing parents would be able to put their hurt, anger, grief, conflict and other emotions aside and put parenting their children first. Children may not need (or be able ) to live in a home with two married parents, but they do need to have the continuing contact, love and involvement of both their parents .

Parents in the throes of divorce, however, frequently do not know or understand the law with respect to child custody. As a result of emotional hurt, or out of vindictiveness one parent may threaten that she/he will limit the other parent’s time with the child(ren) of the marriage. In a contested custody case the first step is that the parties will appear before a master in a Custody Conciliation hearing. The purpose of this hearing is for the parties to try to work out a custody schedule.
While a parent may feel that he/ she wants to control the amount of time that the other parent has with a child, Masters see things otherwise. A mother, perhaps feeling protective over her child may say “I won’t let him have her that much time.” The master however may educate the mother otherwise– telling her that she (mother) does not control the amount of time that the father gest to spend with his daughter.

Pennsylvania law, does not favor one parent over the other. As a result of years of study, the Pennsylvania legislature overhauled the Custody law in 2011, to provide for 15 specific factors that a Court weighs in determining custody in a contested case. Need for stability, availability of extended family, drug and alcohol abuse of a party or member of party’s household, safety of the child, are among some of the important factors to be considered to determine the best interests of the child.

When thinking about custody in the words of Psychologist Robert Emery, parents should think not about “fighting over the kids, but fighting for the kids”

References, 23 Pa. C.S.A. §5323 Emery, Robert, Ph.D., The Truth About Children and Divorce Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive 2006.