Child Custody Laws in Pennsylvania for Infants

By Wayne Thomas

A divorce can be disruptive to children. In Pennsylvania, courts must base all custody decisions on what is found to be in the child's best interest. For infants, this requires looking at the specific needs of the child at that time, as well as the ability of both parents to meet those needs. Understanding what factors a court looks at in making custody decisions in Pennsylvania, can help you pursue the best possible parenting arrangement for your infant.

Types of Custody

Pennsylvania recognizes two types of custody: physical and legal. Having physical custody means that the child stays with you for a certain number of overnights. By contrast, legal custody refers to your authority to make major decisions for the child, such as those involving school choice and medical treatment. Both types of custody may be shared between parents or may be given solely to one parent.

Best Interests of the Child

According to state law, all custody decisions must be in the child's best interest. Although judges may consider any factor they deem relevant to the child's physical, emotional and psychological well-being, the state has included some specific factors in the law. The judge considers factors such as the ability of each parent to promote ongoing contact with the child and the other parent, either parent's past criminal convictions, and any evidence of a parent's abusive or violent behavior.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Primary Caregiver

In Pennsylvania, there's no preference for either parent based on gender. Further, it is the policy of the state to encourage that the child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents. However, in cases where it can be demonstrated that one parent has provided the majority of care for a child, the court may use this as a factor in support of that parent having more custody. This is particularly true for infants, such as if the parents were separated and the child stayed entirely with the father from the date of birth up through the divorce.

Addional Considerations

Before making a custody order, the court has the discretion to order that the parents and child attend counseling. After issuing a report of the sessions, the court may use the counselor's custody recommendation in determining what arrangement furthers the child's best interests. However, regardless of the opinion of a counselor or the court, state law prohibits the court from awarding any custody rights to a parent that has been convicted of first degree murder of the other parent, unless the child is of suitable age to consent, and an infant would most likely not be considered old enough to consent.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Pennsylvania Laws on Third Parties & Child Custody

References

Related articles

How Does Spouse Abuse Affect Child Custody?

Courts and parents alike want to keep children safe from harm. In determining the custody arrangement following a divorce, courts are primarily concerned with what is in the best interest of the child. As a result, a history of abuse by a parent, particularly if the history is documented, may be highly influential in the outcome of a custody case.

California Laws on Teenage Custody Wishes

Custody determinations often have a significant impact on the life of a child. For that reason, California law provides judges with the discretion to consider a teenager's preference, if the child is capable of making a reasonable choice. Also, teenagers 14 and older may generally participate in the proceedings and offer input, regardless of whether the court ultimately considers the child's preference.

The Best Interest of Children in a Custody Evaluation

Understanding the needs of a child is a crucial component to making an informed custody decision. Custody matters are governed by state law; however, every state requires courts to promote the best interests of the child. When parents can work together, a judge is generally inclined to conclude that the parents' agreed upon parenting proposal serves the best interests of the child. If parents cannot agree, the court must make its own determination. In these instances, neutral custody evaluations are often used to provide judges with an opinion from a qualified professional as to what arrangement promotes the best interests of the child.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Child Custody Visitation Rights in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania passed legislation that overhauled the state's existing child custody laws in 2011. The new laws addressed ...

Child Custody Laws for North Carolina

Custody includes both physical custody, the right to provide a home for a child, and legal custody, the right to make ...

Kentucky State Child Custody Guidelines

For divorcing couples with minor children, determining custody can be a major source of conflict. In Kentucky, state ...

Child Custody Law in Utah

Utah places a strong emphasis on both parents having meaningful contact with their children following a divorce. To ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED