We believe child custody cases are the most important work we do, and we take incredible care in helping our clients find the best possible way to resolve their custody matters. In all family law work, it is essential to find the right stance between aggressive representation and working and negotiating collaboratively; however, this is particularly true in child custody matters, where the best interests and welfare of a child hangs in the balance.
Pennsylvania Courts are required to consider 16 factors in determining custody matters. Those factors are:
- 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 information set forth in section 5329.1(a) (relating to consideration of child abuse and involvement with protective services).
- 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.
Some families can reach an agreement regarding custody. In those cases, we can help you draft a written agreement that can be entered as an enforceable Court Order to help ensure that your agreement will be followed. If you can reach agreement, you may not have to appear in court.
For those families who cannot reach agreement, the prospect of a custody trial can be overwhelming. If you have a child custody dispute, we can help you know what to expect and will work with you to ensure that the Court has all the information needed to reach a fair decision. This is particularly true if your case involves difficult situations such as drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness, high conflict between parents, and/or parent alienation. In some cases, a custody evaluation by a mental health professional may be appropriate to gather information about the case and offer the court the benefit of psychological expertise regarding the issues in the case. We can help you identify whether such an evaluation is needed and, if so, guide you through the custody evaluation process.