Fathers often feel like they are at a disadvantage in a Pennsylvania custody dispute. However, a Pennsylvania father's rights are the same as a mother's rights. Gone are the days where fathers are the sole breadwinners and mothers stay exclusively at home with their children. Back in the 1800’s, Pennsylvania law was controlled by the "Tender Years Doctrine" which the courts used to determine custody. At that time, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that "considering their tender age, they [the minor children] stand in need of that kind of assistance, which can be afforded by none so well as a mother." This law prevailed until the late 1970s when it was overturned as unconstitutional.
Currently, Pennsylvania law does not specifically support one parent over another in custody cases. Rather, the courts analyze what is in “the best interests of the child”. It is that Pennsylvania standard which now controls the court’s decision making. One of the factors a court may consider when determining custody is which parent offers the most stable, nurturing and loving environment. If a child is over the age of 12, the court may consider the child’s wishes in determining the custody arrangement. The court often considers the proximity of the parents' respective residences and each parent's ability to co-parent and effectively communicate.