QUESTION: My partner and I have two children but were never married. How are child custody and child support decided when dealing with children of unwed parents?”

 According to a 2012 ABC News Report, more than 25 percent of children are born to couples who are in a committed relationship, but are not married. When two people with children decide to end their relationship, the children must be considered – whether the parents are married or unmarried.

Many people believe that children automatically stay with their mother when parents aren’t married. The fact is Pennsylvania child custody laws are the same for all parents regardless of marital status. If parents can’t agree on a custody arrangement, a family court judge will make a custody decision based on the best interest of the child. PA custody law lists 16 factors that must be considered:

  1. How likely is each parent to permit and encourage the child to spend time with the other parent?
  2. Is there any history of abuse? Is there a risk of abuse to the child? Can one parent better able to protect the child?
  3. How have the parents divided their parental duties?
  4. How will living with each parent affect the child’s education, extra-curricular activities, and family life?
  5. What is the child’s relationship and involvement with extended family?
  6. Does the child have siblings? What are the child’s sibling relationships?
  7. Does the child have a preference?
  8. Has one parent tried to turn the child against the other parent?
  9. Is one parent better able to meet the child’s emotional needs?
  10. Is one parent better able to provide for the child’s day-to-day physical, developmental, educational and special needs?
  11. How far apart do the parents live?
  12. Does the parent’s schedule allow him or her to care for the child? Will he or she be able to provide appropriate child-care?
  13. How do the parents interact? Are they willing to cooperate?
  14. Does a parent or a member of the household have a history of alcohol abuse or drug abuse?
  15. Does a parent or a member of the household have a disability, illness or mental condition that would affect the child’s well-being?
  16. Are there any other factors that affect the best interests of the child?

Worried about child custody? A Philadelphia child custody lawyer can help make sure your children are protected regardless of your marital status. To schedule an appointment, contact Petrelli Previtera at 215-523-6900.