If you are like many parents today, then the most frightening aspect of getting a divorce is probably worrying about whether you will still get to see your children frequently. Misinformation about custody abounds, in part because some people share exaggerated or unrealistic stories and also because the media loves to prevent dramatic representations of high conflict divorces.
While there are occasionally scenarios in which one spouse successfully manipulates the courts in an attempt to penalize their ex or cut them off from their kids, most divorces result in the courts arranging some kind of shared custody situation for the parents. There are a number of different family circumstances that will influence how the courts divvy up parenting time and parental responsibility.
What factors do the courts review as part of Pennsylvania custody proceedings?
The judge making the decisions in a custody case has to develop an understanding of the family’s unique circumstances and how those influence the needs of the children. The judge will want to know about existing sibling and parental relationships, the current parenting responsibilities of each adult, the financial and living circumstances for the parents, and even the child’s preferences. How close together the parents live, a history of abuse or addiction and even parental conflicts can also play a role.
The child’s preferences can influence the judge to give one parent more parenting time or to give them primary custody in a split where they don’t evenly divide parenting time between parents. The older and more mature your child is, the more weight the judge will put on their preferences. Still, even if a child has a strong preference to spend more time with one parent, the courts will want to have both parents involved in their life.
The goal is what’s best for the kids, not just what people ask for
Judges making custody determinations have to consider not just the preferences and requests of the family members but also what they believe, based on the information provided to them, will be in the best interests of the children.
Everything from the bond they have to the stability of the homes where the parents live will influence the best outcome for the family’s unique circumstances. While that can make it hard to predict an exact outcome, it also means that both parents will likely retain their legal rights and responsibilities as parents.