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What is Pennsylvania's 'best interests of the child' standard?

What began as a passionate relationship can often go sour, with the passion evolving into heated arguments about everything from who keeps the paintings to who keeps the house. If there are children involved in a split, legal disputes can become even more contentious and drawn out as couples struggle to come to a parenting plan that both of them can agree on.

When a couple is able to present the court with a parenting plan that they both have committed to, then the court is likely to adopt that. However, when this does not happen due to disagreements between the parents, the court is left to make child custody determinations on the basis of the best interests of the child in Pennsylvania.

Courts in the state begin child custody determinations with the presumption that joint custody is in the best interests of children when both parents can act as competent caregivers. In this way, they do not consider gender as a factor in their decision. They do however consider family relationships, the child's wishes where appropriate, the mental and physical condition of all parties involved and their location. Where joint custody is not the court's decision, visitation rights are given to the non-custodial parent, depending on the circumstances of the case.

There are many different custody options that parents can create for their children, as everyone's circumstances differ-what might work for one couple may not work for the other. While presenting a parenting plan that both parties have agreed to is the best option, it is not always possible for parties to amicably agree to anything. Consulting an experienced attorney to discuss one's situation may prove helpful.

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