As divorcing couples in Pennsylvania may know, putting an end to a marriage is never easy and the process is even more complicated when there are children involved. Ending a legal relationship with one's spouse while maintaining one with the children is not easy and fragile emotional states often lead to couples being unable to come to a consensus regarding a parenting arrangement. In these situations, the court has to step in and make a custody determination based on a number of factors.
When a court has to decide upon a child's custody and placement, it must make the decision that is "in the best interests of the child". This is a requirement all across the country, though the factors that judges take into account when determining what is best for the child vary slightly from state to state.
Since the child's safety and wellbeing are the ultimate goal, courts take into account factors that affect these. In Pennsylvania, courts also aim to ensure that children removed from their home will be given such care and treatment that will ensure the child develops into a self-sufficient adult.
Some states have enacted laws that specifically govern the factors courts should take into consideration when making a decision regarding the best interests of the child, but Pennsylvania is one of the states that have left the matter to the discretion of the judge. In Pennsylvania, courts are given guiding principles but not specific factors. It also takes into account protections afforded by the federal and state constitution.
It is the aim of all parties involved in finalizing a divorce that the children's best interests be protected and ensured, whether it is through parents coming to an agreement about the parenting plan themselves or through a decree by the court. It may help Scranton families to consult a lawyer to guide them through the process so they can understand how to demonstrate that their child's best interests are served by living with them.
Source: Child Information Gateway, "Determining the best interests of the child," accessed March 31, 2015