16 Factors That Impact Child Custody


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By Jan Grossman, Esq.

Credit: Bloomsberries/Flickr

In Bucks County Custody Court, our Judges must explain their decisions by referring to the 16 custody factors mandated by state law. These factors are “unweighted,” that is, one factor is no more important that another. A judge, on a case by case basis, after all of the evidence is in, may give any factor more weight than another. If a judge does not review the factors before issuing a final custody order, the judge’s decision is reversible on appeal.

At WE CARE LEGAL – 1-855-LAW-FAMILY – when we do a custody no-fee intake, we always keep these factors in mind and give you our professional opinion as to how the factors will apply to the unique facts of your situation.

23 Pa.C.S.A. § 5328. Factors to consider when awarding custody:

(a) Factors. — In ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interest of the child by considering all relevant factors, giving weighted consideration to those factors which affect the safety of the child, including the following:

(1) Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party.

(2) The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party’s household, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child.

(3) The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child.

(4) The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life.

(5) The availability of extended family.

(6) The child’s sibling relationships.

(7) The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child’s maturity and judgment.

(8) The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent, except in cases of domestic violence where
reasonable safety measures are necessary to protect the child from harm.

(9) Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs.

(10) Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special
needs of the child.

(11) The proximity of the residences of the parties.

(12) Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements.

(13) The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another. A party’s effort to protect a child from abuse
by another party is not evidence of unwillingness or inability to cooperate with that party.

(14) The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household.

(15) The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household.

(16) Any other relevant factor.

(b) Gender neutral. — In making a determination under subsection (a), no party shall receive preference based upon gender in any award granted under this chapter.

Even though the factors are unweighted, it’s been our experience that Bucks County judges are especially concerned about factors #1 and, in these days of drug abuse and mental illness factors #14,#15. If you have a history of denying your co-parent custody time, you are beginning your case at a disadvantage. If you can’t pass a drug test, your time will be restricted. Also, in spite of what you may here, our judges truly are fair and even in allotting custody to fathers. Fathers who complain that they are being discriminated against in custody court, have usually given the judge ample real reasons to treat them as secondary parents.

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