Child Custody: “Best Interests” Enumerated Under New Law
author | joseph d. visco, esquire
On January 24, 2011, child custody law in Pennsylvania changed. Previously, child custody disputes where decided by a judge based upon the “best interests of the child” standard. This broad standard gave litigants, counsel and judges broad discretion in deciding what facts and factors constituted “best interests.” The new law helps focus the best interest inquiry and will aid in removing personal biases of judges, create more uniformity in decisions, and allow for better reasoned and more child-centric custody decisions.
Starting on January 24th, 2011, the court must now “give weighted consideration” to the following 16 “best interest” factors:
Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party
The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of a party’s house-hold, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision
The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child
The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life
The availability of extended family
The child’s sibling relationships
The well-reasoned preference of the child
The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent
Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child’s emotional needs
Which party is more likely to attend to the daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child
The proximity of the residences of the parties
Each party’s availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements
The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another.
The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party’s household
The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party’s household
Any other relevant factor
Additionally, under the new law Judges must provide the reasons and facts they relied upon in reaching their decision.
These changes should provide greater predictability and uniformity in custody disputes throughout the state.
About The Author
Joseph D. Visco is an attorney in the Divorce Group at Stark & Stark, P.C. in Yardley, Bucks County. Mr. Visco practices in Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties as well as New Jersey. He is a member of the Bucks County Collaborative Law Group and a member of Collaborative Family Law Affiliates and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org