When divorcing parents can’t settle custody issues on their own, a family court judge may have to make a determination for them. While every parent wants to spend as much time as possible with their children, courts in most states require courts to make their decisions based solely on the interests of the children. To determine what’s best for the children, the judge may weigh a variety of factors, from their relationships to the resources of the parents.
What Do Courts Consider in Custody Cases?
The Strength of Existing Relationships
As a general rule, courts assume that children benefit from maintaining their existing relationships with family members and friends. Because disrupting these relationships can increase the emotional strain of a divorce, judges will often decide against separating siblings or forcing children to change schools if they have an established support network in their current community.
Each Parent’s Living Situation
Before awarding child custody, the court will want to ensure that each parent can provide a suitable living environment for the children. A parent who shares an apartment with roommates in a dangerous area may be less likely to be granted custody than one who lives in a home with extra space.
The Wishes of the Child
In some states, judges may ask the children which parent they would prefer to live with if they are of sufficient age. While Pennsylvania does not have exact age limits, the judge may still factor in their preference, depending on the child’s maturity and judgment. However, they aren’t bound to follow these preferences, and may ignore them if they decide doing so is in the child’s best interests.
If you’re going through a difficult child custody dispute, the family attorneys at Levy, Stieh, Gaughan & Baron PC in Milford, PA, will guide you through the process and work to ensure the best possible outcome. They understand how difficult and stressful these cases may often be and will treat your case with the sensitivity these matters deserve. Visit their website for an overview of all their legal services, or call (570) 296-8844 to speak with an attorney.