In Pennsylvania, like many states, there are two kinds of custody: physical and legal. While physical custody refers to where and with whom the child will live, legal custody concerns a parent’s right to make important decisions for the child. These decisions could include their education, medical care, religion, and more. A court’s job is to determine what custody arrangement will create the most beneficial life for the child. Custody is not a quick or easy decision and there is a plethora of factors that must be considered, including the child’s preference. To acquire skilled legal representation during your custody dispute reach out to a Montgomery County child custody lawyer today.

Will a Judge Consider the Child’s Preference When Deciding Custody?

A court’s duty of determining child custody arrangements is complex and revolves around many moving parts. Some may believe that the child should simply get to choose who they live with. While many states, including Pennsylvania, do consider a child’s preference, the weight their desire carries will depend on varying factors.

Some states have a minimum age requirement when a child is allowed to voice their opinion. While Pennsylvania does not have this same qualification, it is true that the older the child is the more weight that their preference will carry. The more a child ages and matures, the more intelligent and aware they become. They begin to form their opinions and views based on logic and fact as well as emotion. When a young child makes a statement about their preference there is a higher chance that it could be an irrational or impulsive decision.

Under Pennsylvania law “the child’s preference must be based on good reasons, and the child’s maturity and intelligence must be considered.” A judge will always hear out a child’s preference but it is up to their discretion whether to seriously consider it or not when making a decision.

How is Custody Decided?

Physical and legal custody can both be decided by a judge in a court. The following are some custody arrangements that may apply depending on the family.

  • Joint legal and physical custody where the child spends an equal or almost equal amount of time with both parents. Both parents also have an equal say in major decisions for the child.
  • Sole legal and joint physical custody may work for some families. While the child would spend an equal amount of time with both parents, only one would have the right to make important decisions.
  • Joint legal and sole physical custody is when the child resides with one parent all or most of the time but the other parent may have visitation rights and be able to contribute to decision-making.
  • One parent may also be awarded sole legal and physical custody of the child depending on the circumstances.

These decisions are made based on examinations conducted of nearly every aspect of the parent’s lives. Courts will consider the relationship between the child and each parent, income, debts, housing situations, criminal history, the child’s preference, and more.

Speak with an experienced family law attorney to ensure your parental rights are protected during your custody dispute.