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Understanding child custody in Pennsylvania

There are a number of different child custody issues that can arise from developing the initial parenting plan to the need for modifications as life changes. Parents are encouraged to resolve child custody concerns in an amicable manner and reach a child custody agreement by working together to achieve a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the child. When parents are unable to agree, the court will make a child custody determination based on what is in the best interests of the child.

The family law court evaluates several factors when determining what is in the best interests of the child. The court may require counseling and use the information provided by counselors to inform their decision concerning sole custody or shared custody. The factors a Pennsylvania court will consider when evaluating child custody determinations includes the preference of the child; which parent is most likely to foster a relationship between the child and the other parent; any history of abuse; and any criminal convictions.

Different custody arrangements may be decided upon by the court, including sole custody if the court determines it is in the best interests of the child or joint custody if the parents request and agree to joint custody. A child custody agreement should outline the details of the child custody arrangement and should include specific details related to weekends, holidays and vacations. When issues arise related to child custody modifications or relocation, the family law court evaluates those considerations when brought to them.

It is likely that circumstances and the needs of the child can change over time which is why it is important to understand how to develop an effective child custody agreement, as well as how to seek a modification of the agreement from the court if necessary. Child custody decisions are always governed by the guiding principle of what is in the best interest of the child and the more that parents are familiar with the process, the greater likelihood of a positive child custody experience using the resources and tools provided by the family law system.

Source: About Parenting, "What Are Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania?" Debrina Washington, Oct. 17, 2016

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