Understanding the Best Interests of Child Standard

Misconceptions abound regarding how Pennsylvania courts make decisions in regard to child custody and parenting time or visitation. Much of the confusion stems from the standard in which the court applies in making decisions regarding child custody and parenting time or visitation. Pennsylvania courts apply what commonly is referred to as the best interest of child standard when making determinations regarding child custody as well as parenting time or visitation.

Misconceptions About Child Custody Determinations

Many individuals involved in divorce proceedings presume that the focus of the court in making child custody determinations is on the parents. In fact, what is in the best interest of the child is always the focal point of any court proceeding pertaining to custody, parenting time (or visitation) or relayed matters.

Fundamentals of Best Interest of Child Standard

The determination of what is in a child’s best interests when it comes to custody and parenting time is made on a case by case basis. By definition, when determining a child’s best interest in regard to custody or parenting time, a court must consider the specific facts and circumstances of an individual case.

In considering what is in the best interests of a minor child in regard to custody or parenting time, a judge can consider a variety of factors. These might include which parent historically has been the primary caretaker of the minor child. A judge might also consider the overall physical, mental and emotional health of the parents and the child. A judge can consider the living situation of each parent.

In some cases, a judge will seek an independent evaluation, usually from a person with a MSW, to make recommendations to the court regarding the application of the best interest of child standard in a specific case.

Retain Legal Counsel

Due to the importance of custody and parenting time issues, a parent nearly always is best served by engaging the services of a qualified Pennsylvania family law lawyer. An attorney typically arranged an initial consultation to discuss a case at no cost to a potential client.