Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania 101

Custody laws protect the "best interest of the child”

Pennsylvania has thorough laws about child custody. Parents and even grandparents create a shared custody plan. Of course, custody matters are more complex than anticipated and Court involvement may be necessary.  Court involvement may be a last resort, but child custody laws in Pennsylvania illustrate the state's vested interest in raising a well-adjusted child.

 How to start a custody action

The parent who wants custody of the child must file an action with the Court.  Child custody laws in Pennsylvania require the Petition be filed in the county or state where the child has resided for at least six (6) months.  Some counties require both parents to attend a seminar to become familiar with the process.  The goal of the seminar is to inform parents about how divorce will affect their child. Mediation cannot proceed until this is completed.

If mediation does not occur, there will be a conference conducted before a judge or a court appointed employee.  The goal is to foster open discussions and reach an agreement.

If no agreement is reached in any of the conferences, a hearing will be schedule to have a judge hear the case.  Home studies or psychological evaluations of the parents and/or children may be conducted by court appointed experts.  This is intended to keep the best interests of the child at the forefront of the issue. The evaluation report will be used to determine the custodial arrangement.

The best interests of the child The US Department of Health and Human Services  defines "the best interests of the child" as:

...the deliberation that courts undertake when deciding what type of services, actions, and orders will best serve a child as well as who is best suited to take care of a child.  "Best interests” determinations are generally made by considering a number of factors related to the circumstances of the child and the circumstances and capacity of the child’s potential caregiver(s), with the child’s ultimate safety and well-being as the paramount concern.

In Bucks county and all of Pennsylvania, the best interest of the child is interpreted pursuant to child custody laws in Pennsylvania, §5328, factors to consider when awarding custody. The Court will consider the health, support, safety, and/or protection of the child; it may even take the child's preference into account in some cases.

If you have a child custody matter and need a Bucks county custody lawyer, contact our office to schedule a consultation with an attorney, at (215) 942-2100.  Feel free to fill out the inquiry form by providing direct contact information and someone will contact you to shedule an appointment.