Divorce Guide

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Pennsylvania Divorce Custody


Similar to other states in the USA, PA divorce custody guidelines specify that custody of the child is awarded based on the best interests of the child and the welfare, safety of the child must never be compromised. While determining child custody, parents are not awarded custody based on their sex and their financial conditions. Both the parents have equal chances of getting the custody of the child in such cases.

Following guidelines are considered while awarding child custody in the state of Pennsylvania:
  • While awarding custody, PA laws give a lot of importance to the life of a child and stringently follow the policy of child custody issue separately and no way related to property distribution. PA divorce custody laws specify that if it comes to the knowledge of the courts that custody rights of a parent has been done in exchange of property, then that parent would not be awarded custody of the child.

  • Courts generally prefer joint custody, with one parent getting the prime physical custody of the child for practical purposes and the other parent is awarded the visitation rights. The custodial parent has the responsibility of day-to-day care of the child and is generally has been the primary care taker of the child. The non-custodial parent has access to the child in terms of spending alternate weekends, summer vacations and other holidays and taking the child out on trips. If a non-custodial parent disputes over the matter of physical custody, then PA divorce custody laws make it mandatory for both the parents to produce a sound parenting plan. This plan must specify how the day-to-day time of the child is expected to be shared by the parents.

  • Joint custody does not necessarily refer to splitting the time of the child into two or 50/50 sharing of the time. If the courts find that the disputing parents have irreconcilable difference regarding sharing of the child’s time, then they may ask the parents to participate in child custody mediation. A third neutral party helps the divorced partners to formulate a parenting plan keeping the best interests of the child in mind. Courts then give legal approval to the plan and the parents are expected to comply with the plan and any failure to do so would be “contempt of court”.

  • While awarding shared parenting or joint custody, courts try to determine the extent to which divorced parents are willing to cooperate with each other regarding child care.

  • Joint custody is also awarded if it is in the best interests of the child and no parent has a record of child neglect or child abuse or physical violence or any kind of brutality in the family or had subjected the mentioned crimes against the child. If such a case exists then, that parent gets the visitation rights which can also be supervised by a third party if that parent is deemed dangerous to the welfare of the child.

  • Geographic proximity of the divorced parents is also an important aspect while awarding joint custody, for obvious practical reasons.

  • The actual wishes of the child and the basic needs and interests of the child are also assessed during the child custody battle. PA child custody laws specify that the parent who can provide emotional support to the child. Judges try to determine which parent bonds the most with the child and is capable of providing emotional support to the child.

  • PA courts also try to determine if any parent is planning to move out of the state and this factor may impact the final ruling regarding child custody.

  • The parent who offers to provide a stable family unit to the child and a continued familiar community to him/her is likely to get the custody of the child.

  • According to grandparents’ rights, if the parents of the child are found unfit and unable to raise the child, then the custody of the child is awarded to the grandparents. This is more so if the child has lived with the grandparent for more than 12 months. In circumstances where one parent of the child has died, then grandparents may get partial custody of the child or visitation rights, if there is no dispute between the parent and the grandparent. Courts avoid wrecking parent-child relationship in all means.

  • PA child support laws specify that both the incomes of the parents must be considered while arriving for child support figure. This child support is to meet the financial needs of the growing child and can be terminated when the child reaches the age of 18 years or has joined the defense forces. Child support is mandatory even if visitation rights have been forfeited by the courts.


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