How is Child Custody Determined in Pennsylvania?

There is nothing more important than spending time with your child. This is why determining child custody is often one of the most challenging and difficult decisions for parents to make. If both parents are unable to present an acceptable parenting agreement, the courts will intervene. In today’s blog, we take a look at how child custody is determined in Pennsylvania and how a skilled family lawyer can help you and your family at this emotional time. 

What Factors Do the Courts Take Into Consideration?

In Pennsylvania, the courts will always make a decision based on the best interests of the child. While both parents may believe that the child spending the most time with them is in their child’s best interests, the courts consider a number of important factors that impact the child’s physical, emotional and mental well-being. These factors include:

  • Each parent’s location
  • The relationship the child shares with each parent
  • The mental and physical condition of each parent
  • The parenting duties provided by each party
  • Any past or current abuse or risk of harm present in the household
  • Sibling and family relationships
  • A parent’s history of drug or alcohol abuse
  • The child’s wishes/preferences
  • And more

It’s important to note that, in Pennsylvania, the courts do not consider each parent’s gender in their decision making. This is to ensure that each parent has equal rights to their child. In many cases, there is a presumption for joint custody if both parents are found to be able-bodied caretakers. 

How is Child Custody Determined for Unmarried Couples?

In cases of a breakup where both parents were unmarried, the father must establish paternity before seeking child custody. 

In order to establish paternity voluntarily, both parties need to sign what’s known as a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form. This form must be signed in front of a witness who is at least 18 years or old and is typically signed at the hospital where the baby was born. This form may also be obtained at the local Department of Public Welfare Office and Domestic Relations Office of the local county court. Once the form is signed and filed, the father’s name will be added to the birth certificate. However, if this form is being contested by the mother and the father is seeking legal rights to the child, he must establish paternity “involuntarily.” 

An involuntary establishment of paternity is handled through a court proceeding, where the courts will issue what’s called an “order of paternity.” The reason why this particular type of paternity establishment is referred to as “involuntary” is because the dispute caused it to become a court issue. If one of the parties is seeking to establish paternity, then they must file a “Petition to Determine Paternity” at the Family Court to begin the process. 

Once paternity has been determined, the father may legally seek child custody, visitation rights  and be required to provide child support

Contact A Colmar Family Law Attorney For A Consultation About Divorce In Pennsylvania Today

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The Pennsylvania family law attorneys at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford, P.C. represent clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, including King of Prussia, Norristown, Newtown and Doylestown. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (215) 822-7575 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 2605 N. Broad St., Colmar, PA 18915, as well as an office located in Newtown.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.