There are many parents in Pennsylvania who are no longer in a relationship with the other parent of their child. This could be because the parents are now divorced or were never married to the other parent. In either case, just because the parents are not in a relationship does not mean that either one is no longer responsible for raising the child. It may be more difficult for the parents to do, but they must do it.
To try and cut down on some of the conflict and give consistency to the children, generally parents in this situation will have a child custody order that states the roles of each parent. Custody orders state not only which parent will be making the decisions for the child, but also where the child will be living and when they will be with each parent. This is known as the parenting plan.
Parenting plans may be submitted by each parent to the court. They state when the child will be with each parent on a regular schedule as well as for holidays and vacations. It will also include the parent's wishes for school and religion, child care, health care, transportation and proposals for how the parents would resolve conflicts in the future. This could be done through mediation, arbitration or another method that works for the parents. The parenting plan is only meant to aid the judge in their decision and cannot be used as evidence in a hearing on the matter.
It is more and more common for parents in Pennsylvania to be separated. Due to this fact, child custody orders and more and more common as well. Child custody determinations are made based on what is in the best interests of the child. To determine this, the court will analyze a number of different factors and will review proposed parenting plans to assist them in that decision. Overall, child custody determinations are very fact specific and it is important to understand the factors used to ensure a child's best interests are met.
Source: Pennsylvania State Legislature, "Pennsylvania Statute Chapter 53 section 5331," accessed on Feb. 20, 2017