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Summary of the New Pennsylvania Custody Law

Previous blog posts have analyzed each Section of the new Pennsylvania custody law. This post is a summary of the new law.

The new Pennsylvania custody law applies to all custody cases that began on January 24, 2011 or later. The new law entirely replaces the previous custody law but does not create the widely expected presumption of shared physical custody. Instead, the new law is silent on presumptions.

The three most important changes in the new law are:

1. A comprehensive list of 16 factors that the court MUST consider when making a custody decision (see our analysis of Section 5328);

2. Detailed and strong provisions for consideration of criminal convictions and charges in custody cases (see our analysis of Section 5328, 5329 and 5330); and

3. A complete retooling of the Pennsylvania law on relocation (see our analysis of Section 5337).

The new relocation provision are major step forward in protecting all parties during a potential relocation and in providing guidance on the proper procedures to follow for a relocation.

We hope that the exhaustive list of factors that must be considered by the Court will prevent certain local practices or personal biases from creating cookie-cutter results. Perhaps the required and habitual consideration of all 16 factors may result in more individually tailored custody orders that focus on the child, thereby better protecting children who are the victims of adult conflicts. Only time will tell.