Are you facing divorce? Do you have children? Then you may be attempting to figure out what custody arrangements you and your spouse can make.

Perhaps you want to make our own arrangements, which you is within your rights to do, but you want to make sure that the court will approve them. To that end, it may help to know how Pennsylvania views child custody matters.

First things first

Generally, two primary types of custody exist — sole custody and joint custody. The type of custody you choose largely depends on your circumstances. If you decide to let the court determine your custody arrangement, it will make its determination based on its aim to ensure the best interests of the children. When reviewing the custody agreement and parenting plan created by you and the other parent, the judge applies the same standard. If you need to change those arrangements in the future, the court will continue to apply this standard.

Determining what would be in your children’s best interests

Courts consider several factors, including the following:

  • The criminal records of either parent
  • The preference of the child
  • The presence of any abuse now or in the past

The ability of one or both parents to encourage and foster the children’s relationships with each parent also tops the list of considerations for the court. Even though the court is limited as to what arrangements it can order, it can consider additional factors as well.

For instance, a judge could order you and the other parent to attend counseling to help determine how to appropriately order custody. The counselors often discuss what it would mean if shared custody or sole custody were ordered, along with the responsibilities that each parent takes on under each type of arrangement.

Coming to an agreement on your own

If you and the other parent decide to figure out your own arrangements, you retain control over what happens to your family post-divorce. You have the freedom to come up with whatever type of plan works best for your family. You can add whatever additional provisions you and the other parent need in order to facilitate a civil, if not amicable, relationship as parents.

As long as you keep in mind that your solution must meet with the court’s approval, you may , under the advice of legal counsel, feel free to sign an agreement that allows you and the other parent to remain loving and supportive parents to your children. You may need assistance in this endeavor, and fortunately, that help is available.