Does a Mother Always Have a Right to Custody of Her Children?

When it comes to the custody of your child, it’s understandable that you might have several very serious concerns. After all, making sure that your child is well cared for and that you can remain an integral part of their life is paramount.

Many times, men wonder if they even have any options when it comes to custody because it is often believed that a mother usually takes custody of her children. In fact, it’s not unusual for a family lawyer in Pittsburgh to have a client ask about this. While child custody is a complicated matter, the short answer to whether a mother always gets custody of the children is typically “no.”

Understanding Pennsylvania Child Custody Laws

In the state of Pennsylvania, a court will take several factors into consideration when determining child custody. These factors can include things like the relationship each parent has with the child, if there is a history of abuse or neglect, past criminal convictions, the ability of the parents to care for the child and meet the responsibilities that custody requires, and even, in some cases, the wishes of the child will be taken into consideration.

A court can grant joint custody, which is essentially, both parents sharing custody, or a judge might award sole custody, which can be awarded to either one of the parents. If a judge feels that it is in the best interest of the child, sole custody might be awarded; however, this type of custody arrangement is usually based on extenuating circumstances that warrant such an arrangement.

Child Custody Is Based on Sixteen Factors

Pennsylvania has a fairly straightforward approach to determining child custody. In January 2011, a new law went into effect outlining sixteen factors that a judge must consider when determining how child custody will be determined. These factors would clearly put more weight on items that could affect the health and wellbeing of the child, but all sixteen factors must be weighed fairly when making a custody determination. Additionally, in Pittsburgh, a judge is not allowed to automatically assume that one parent, such as the mother, would be the most likely parent to be granted custody. Each case must be determined based on the outlined criteria that is spelled out in the law.

Important factors in this sixteen-step plan to determine custody can include somewhat subtle things, such as whether one of the parents would be more likely to encourage the child to have a relationship with the noncustodial parent as well as the types and scope of duties each parent has participated in. Of course, a judge will look at the ability of each parent to be able to maintain a safe, stable, and nurturing home environment that best meets the child’s needs.

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