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Parents in Harrisburg going through a divorce love their children very much and worry about how their dissolution will affect their children. Parents understand that they will most likely have to share time spent with their child, which means big changes in the lives of both the parents and child. This can make child custody decisions very difficult. The following is a brief overview on how courts in Pennsylvania will make child custody decisions.

On what basis are child custody decisions made?

Courts will remain gender neutral when making child custody decisions. This means that neither the mother nor the father will receive priority treatment when it comes to awarding custody based on gender alone. Instead, custody decisions are made based on the “best interests of the child.”

Best interests of the child factors

There are certain factors Pennsylvania courts will consider when determining the best interests of the child. The court will consider which parent is more apt to encourage and allow frequent and continuing contact between the child and the other parent. Each parent’s willingness and ability to cooperate with one another may be considered. Which parent is more apt to keep up a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child also may be considered.

The parental duties each parent performed will be considered, as will the child’s need for stability and continuity in their family, school and community life. Whether extended family is available may be considered along with a child’s relationship with their siblings. The child’s preferences, based on their maturity and judgment, may be considered. In addition, courts may consider which parent is more apt to meet the child’s physical, emotional, developmental, educational and other needs. How close the parents live to one another may be considered. Each parent’s availability or ability to make child-care arrangements may be considered.

Whether domestic abuse or substance abuse is an issue will also be considered. Whether a parent tried to alienate the child from the other parent may be an issue, except when domestic violence is an issue. Courts may also consider each parent’s mental and physical health. Finally, courts will consider any other relevant factors when making child custody decisions.

Learn more about child custody in Pennsylvania

It is essential that the child’s needs are prioritized above all others when making child custody decisions. Still, parents will want to feel reassured that decisions made protect their rights and interests and those of their child. Our firm’s webpage on child custody in Pennsylvania may be of interest to Harrisburg parents going through a divorce.