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What to consider when discussing child custody

Child custody orders are critical tools for parents who are not in an intact family, and securing a fair order should be a top priority when parents separate. While people might expect the courts to design these orders, oftentimes, it is the parents who do so through mediation or collaboration.

As such, it can be helpful to understand the main factors that you will want to consider when creating a custody plan.

What is best for your child

A child custody plan should reflect the best interests of your child, which often means ensuring a child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents. This can be difficult for parents to commit to when they are angry with each other, but it is important for parents to keep the focus on the best interests of the child.

Think about his or her emotional, physical and social needs, think about how important stability is for your child and consider the relationship your child has with each parent. 

Capabilities of each parent

Assessing the capabilities of each parents is also crucial. Discuss the type of home each parent could provide, the safety of the child when he or she is with each parent and the willingness of each parent to play a meaningful role in the child's life.

If a parent has severe health problems, a history of violent behavior or an addiction to drugs or alcohol, he or she may not be able to tend to a child's daily needs or provide a safe environment for the child.

Logistical details

How close will parents live to each other? Does a parent have reliable transportation? Are there other children in a parent's home? What is each parent's work schedule?

These are some of the logistical details that can influence a custody plan. They can affect how frequently parents exchange custody as well as what is realistic in terms of living situations, so it is important not to dismiss them.

Putting the pieces together

Like the Pennsylvania courts, you should consider these and other relevant factors when making decisions regarding physical and/or legal custody to create a solid custody plan

And try to remember that custody is about more than what you want; it's about what your child needs and what you can do to protect both parents' rights and the best interests of your child.

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