When a Pennsylvania court is handling a child custody portion of a divorce proceeding, the primary consideration is the best interests of the child. The court weighs factors that affect the safety of the child, whether the child would require relocation and the child's school situation, among other considerations. In addition to interviewing the child's parents, the court may also speak with the child or a representative of the child to glean information regarding custody and visitation rights.
The primary factors in a child custody case include whether the child has been abused by either parent, the relationship the child has with each parent, sibling relationships, the availability of extended family, the child's need for stability and the preference of the child. Any past criminal charges, such as international abduction, are also considered by the court in determining legal custody.
Joint custody may be an option if both parents care equally for a child and when the child has a close relationship with both parents. The mental and physical condition of either party may be considered if a child custody modification is requested by either parent. Visitation may be set up by the court for the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. The court may also set up arrangements for grandparents and other relatives to have visitation rights with the child.
When joint custody is not granted, the court may grant sole custody to one parent with visitation rights for the other. If circumstances change, such as a parent's need to relocate for a new job, a child custody modification may be requested. Parents can learn more about how courts weigh custodial factors by consulting an attorney.
Source: legis.state.pa.us, "Child Custody", October 07, 2014