Like most Pennsylvania couples, when you married and started a family, you never envisioned that it would end in divorce. Now, you face not only ending your marital relationship, but also figuring out what custody arrangements would best serve your children.

Whether you and the other parent decide to negotiate your own agreement or rely on the court to make the decision on your behalf, it may help to know what factors the courts take into consideration when attempting to determine what will most closely accomplish the task of serving the best interests of your children.

What constitutes the best interests of the child?

Well, that is the primary question, isn’t it? You already want to do what would be in your children’s best interests, but this is also a standard that the court must uphold. Every decision stems from answering this question. As part of that equation, the court may consider how well your child will adjust to changes. In order to do so, the court considers these factors:

  • How old each of your children is plays a role. As your children grow, their needs will change. For instance, a move probably has little effect on a baby or toddler, but may adversely affect an older child with friends in the area, a school they love or extracurricular activities in which they participate.
  • Whether your child has specific medical needs may bear consideration as well. Maintaining a relationship with a doctor and care facility that is already familiar with your child’s medical needs and challenges could take priority.
  • If you have a child with special needs, making drastic changes in location, school or medical providers could be a mistake.
  • If you propose a visitation schedule, the court will want to ensure that it does not over complicate the lives of your children.
  • The court may even consider the religious requirements and obligations your child undertakes.

Of course, these are not the only factors that the court would consider when making custody and visitation decisions. Your family is unique, and other factors may require review as well.

Presenting the court with your own agreement

You know you family’s needs better than the court, and most courts encourage parents to resolve these issues outside of the courtroom. If you and the other parent decide to negotiate your own child custody agreement and parenting plan, it should meet with court approval as long you consider the above factors along with any others that apply to your situation.

To help ensure that you obtain the court’s approval for your plan, you need to make sure it meets all of the legal requirements in addition to the requirements of you and your children. Doing so may necessitate enlisting some help.