Determining child custody can be one of the most difficult parts of going through a divorce. The first priority is what situation is best for the child, and there are various factors that a court examines.
If both parents provide for the child and are good caregivers, a judge will usually grant joint custody. However, there are times when the court assigns one parent to have sole custody.
FindLaw discusses that a judge makes a determination for two types of custody: Legal and physical. Legal refers to whom has the right to make major decisions, such as educational, religious and medical, for the child. Physical refers to the physical control and possession of the child. A judge may grant sole or shared custody for both types.
The courts understand that a child benefits from having contact with both parents, so, except for in situations of child abuse, a judge generally allows the non-custodial parent to have visitation rights. This may include shared or partial physical custody, although there may be a requirement for supervised visits in certain situations.
According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, parents have the opportunity to decide which custody arrangement works the best, and a judge will approve it as long as it is in the child’s best interest. If parents cannot agree, a judge will consider a wide range of factors, such as:
- The current parental duties each parent performs
- The ability of each parent to provide a safe and stable home
- The child’s relationship with each parent, siblings or extended family members
- The history of alcohol, drug or physical abuse
- The ability of the parents to cooperate
- The likelihood of each parent to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent
Once a child is mature enough to understand the situation, a judge also takes the child’s wishes into consideration.