Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

PA Child Custody Factors in Action

Written by: Lisa Vari on G+

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are currently involved in a very intense divorce and child custody battle that is spanning different states and even different worldviews. Katie Holmes, who has filed for Divorce from Cruise, has filed for sole custody in New York for their child Suri. Holmes is reportedly adamant about not allowing Cruise to have custody as a way to keep Suri out of the Scientology school where Cruise's two older children were sent.

Holmes, according to the Huffington Post, may have some success with this. New York states grants a comparatively large number of sole custody orders to other states. Apparently having a very smart divorce lawyer, she filed for custody preemptively in New York, to prevent Cruise from filing in California, which is more hostile to granting sole custody.

In Allegheny County, like in the rest of Pennsylvania, Courts are generally unwilling to grant sole custody, which means that the other parent has no access to the child. Child custody is determined using "the best interest of the child" standard, which requires the Court to balance the following 17 factors:

  • 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 a party's house-hold, whether there is a continued risk of harm to the child and which party can better provide adequate physical safeguards and supervision
  • 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
  • The attempts of a parent to turn the child against the other parent
  • 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 daily physical, emotional, developmental, educational and special needs of the child
  • The proximity of the residences of the parties
  • Each party's availability to care for the child or ability to make appropriate child-care arrangements
  • The level of conflict between the parties and the willingness and ability of the parties to cooperate with one another.
  • The history of drug or alcohol abuse of a party or member of a party's household
  • The mental and physical condition of a party or member of a party's household
  • Any other relevant factor

The way that the Court analyzes these factors leads to an individual factual determination about the custody arrangement that is best for the child at the time. In PA, the presumption is that what is best for the child is a continuing and substantial relationship with both parents. If TomKat lived in Pennsylvania, it is not likely that Katie would receive sole custody. It is not likely that their disagreements would rise to the level of overtaking a PA Court's preference for continuing relationships with both parents.

If you are dealing with your own custody negotiation , contact our experienced child custody attorneys today!

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