Ever wonder what effect an affair has on custody proceedings? In Pennsylvania, likely none. Affairs alone are not enough to deny a parent custody of his or her children.
Pennsylvania follows the “best interest of the child” doctrine. Pennsylvania courts use sixteen different custody factors to determine custody of minor children. The statutes do not list affairs as a factor in custody decisions. The statutes contain a provision which allows courts to consider “all other relevant factors”. However, in Haller v. Haller, 377 Pa. Super. 330, the Superior Court held that a court can only consider this factor as it pertains to the best interest of the child. Therefore, a court may only consider an affair to the extent it negatively impacts the best interests of the child.
Pennsylvania family courts may not impose their own morality on litigants in custody disputes. In McAnallen v. McAnallen, 300 Pa. Super. 406, the Superior Court stated that a judge must never impose his own moral code upon facts in a custody dispute. The goal is to determine the best interest of the child. Further, the court held that evidence of an affair, without evidence that it adversely affects the child, is error.
We get it. Your former significant other is a two-timing cheat. However, in the eyes of the courts, this fact alone does not make them a bad parent. On the other hand, if you can prove the affair has a negative impact on the well-being of the child, you may have grounds to bring it up. In conclusion, while affairs fan the flame of emotions, they are not likely to impact custody proceedings without further evidence of harm.