Determining the Best Interests of the Child - Pennsylvania

Date: September 2023

Guiding Principles

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 42, § 6301(b)(1), (1.1), (3), (4) 

This chapter shall be construed to effectuate the following purposes:

  • To preserve the unity of the family whenever possible or to provide another alternative permanent family when the unity of the family cannot be maintained
  • To provide for the care, protection, safety, and wholesome mental and physical development of children coming within the provisions of this chapter 
  • To achieve the foregoing purposes in a family environment whenever possible, separating the child from parents only when necessary for their welfare, safety, or health, or in the interests of public safety
  • To provide means through which the provisions of this chapter are executed and enforced and in which the parties are assured a fair hearing, and their constitutional and other legal rights recognized and enforced

 Best Interests Factors

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 5328(a)

When ordering any form of custody, the court shall determine the best interests of the child by considering all relevant factors, considering those factors that affect the safety of the child, including the following:

  • Which party is more likely to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact between the child and another party
  • The present and past abuse committed by a party or member of the party's household and whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child or an abused party 
  • Which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision of the child
  • The parental duties performed by each party on behalf of the child
  • The need for stability and continuity in the child's education, family life, and community life
  • The availability of extended family
  • The child's sibling relationships
  • The well-reasoned preference of the child, based on the child's maturity and judgment
  • Which party is more likely to maintain a loving, stable, consistent, and nurturing relationship with the child adequate for the child's emotional needs
  • Which party is more likely to attend to the child's daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational, and special needs 

Other Considerations

Citation: Cons. Stat. Tit. 23, § 5328(b)-(c)

In deciding a child's custody under § 5328(a), no party shall receive preference based upon gender in any award granted under this chapter.

In ordering partial physical custody or supervised physical custody to a parent's parent or grandparent, the court shall consider the following:

  • The amount of personal contact between the child and the grandparent or great-grandparent prior to the filing of the action
  • Whether the award interferes with any parent-child relationship
  • Whether the award is in the best interests of the child