Since the Child Custody Act became effective in 2012, the Pennsylvania appellate courts have mandated an analysis of the 16 custody factors listed under 23 Pa. C.S.A. 5328 by trial courts when rendering a custody decision. As stated in Section 5323(d), the trial court “shall delineate the reasons for its decision on the record in open court or in a written opinion or order.” In cases where a grandparent seeks partial physical custody or supervised physical custody, in addition to considering the 16 factors, the trial court must also consider: the amount of personal contact between the child and the grandparent prior to the filing of the action; whether the award interferes with any parent-child relationship; and whether the award is in the best interest of the child. Therefore, in grandparent custody cases, the court will analyze a total of 19 factors, in addition to all relevant factors.
In the cases that followed the enactment of the New Custody Act, the Pennsylvania Superior Court reversed trial courts for failure to analyze the 16 factors. The 16 factors were included in the Custody Act as guidance so that trial courts make a thorough and well-rounded analysis in making decisions as important as child custody awards. The recent case of KB v. MF, 247 A.3d 1146 (Pa. Super. 2021) provides an important reminder of the importance of the analysis by the trial court of the 16 factors when rendering a custody decision along with an interesting wrinkle.