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How judges make child custody decisions

When parents in Pennsylvania decide to separate, child custody issues can be difficult to overcome. One ex may be concerned that they will lose their close bond with the kids, especially if the other parent maintains primary custody. While joint custody is becoming increasingly more common, there are a number of solutions that may be preferable depending on each family's circumstances. By understanding how family courts make decisions, parents can help to prepare themselves for a custody hearing.

In general, custody decisions are based on a determination of the child's best interests. The child's needs are given priority; although, a strong relationship with both parents is generally considered of major importance to childhood development. There are several factors that judges may keep in mind when making custody decisions. One factor is parenting ability, including a parent's ability to meet a child's needs. A parent's physical and psychological health may be considered as may his or her living situation. For example, a parent living with roommates and without separate sleeping space for the children may be considered unfavorable.

In addition, a parent's ability to remain consistent is a factor. Parents who have already kept to a custody or visitation schedule have shown their ability to follow through on commitments. Custody determinations can vary considerably based on the child's age. Small children may have more time with the primary caregiving parent while older children could have a voice in the final custody decision.

A parent can show their commitment in court by documenting their involvement in and responsibility for their child's development. Furthermore, an attorney can provide strong representation and help a parent achieve a fair outcome in a custody hearing.

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