Divorce can be an extremely emotional and often overwhelming process, especially if there are children involved. Even if you and your spouse decide to legally separate or divorce, your children deserve to have continued interaction and support from both parents.
While every situation has unique circumstances involved, it may be difficult to determine what custody arrangement is best for your children. Not only is it critical to understand how the process works, but what factors are involved.
What are the types of child custody?
According to Pennsylvania statutes, there are two main categories involved in child custody arrangements: physical and legal. Physical custody involves where the child lives, and is broken up into sole and shared custody. The custodial parent may have exclusive physical custody when awarded sole rights; however in a shared parenting situation, the child lives with both parents.
Legal custody determines which parent has legal rights to make decisions regarding the child’s education, medical, child care and religion. You may receive joint legal custody, where both parents share in those decisions, or sole legal custody, where you have the right to make those decisions on your own.
What factors are considered?
The judge presiding over the case has a responsibility to keep the child’s best interests in mind when determining custody. Therefore, the judge will consider several factors before making the final decision. According to Pennsylvania state statutes, these factors include the following:
- Amount of time the parent is able to spend with the child
- Financial resources and occupation of the parent
- Siblings the child has and their relationship with them
- Emotional, physical and mental health of each parent
- Educational, medical and recreational resources available to the child
- History of abuse, drinking or domestic violence
The judge will also look at who took care of the children during the marriage, as well as whether the children developed a bond with either parent during that time. In some cases involving older children, the judge may ask the children where they prefer to live.