Trial Court docket Reversed for Failure to Conduct Custody Issue Evaluation
Since the Child Custody Act went into effect in 2012, the Pennsylvania appeals courts have conducted an analysis of the 16 under 23 Pa. CSA 5328 listed custody factors ordered by the court when making a custody decision. As noted in Section 5323 (d), the court of first instance shall “set out the reasons for its decision in public or in a written notice or order”. In cases where a grandparent seeks partial custody or supervised physical custody, in addition to the 16 factors, the court must take into account: the level of personal contact between the child and the grandparent prior to filing the action; whether the award affects a parent-child relationship; and whether the award is in the best interests of the child. Therefore, in grandparent custody cases, the court analyzes a total of 19 factors in addition to all relevant factors.
In the cases that followed the passage of the New Custody Act, the Pennsylvania Superior Court overturned the lawsuits for failing to analyze the 16 factors. The 16 factors have been included in custody as a guide so that the judicial process can provide a thorough and comprehensive analysis of decisions as important as child custody. The most recent case KB v. MF, 247 A.3d 1146 (Pa. Super. 2021) recalls the importance of analyzing the 16 factors in making a custody decision by the court of first instance along with an interesting crease.