The Types of Custody Orders in Pennsylvania

Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC. – Philadelphia Divorce Lawyers

Child custody in Pennsylvania vary greatly depending upon families’ needs, desires, resources, and parental fitness. Ultimately, a court decides who gets custody based upon the best interests of the child. This article explains the types of child custody arrangements a court may order in Pennsylvania. 

If you are having trouble agreeing on child custody, or you wish to modify or enforce the existing child custody order, call us. With over 40 years of combined experience, our Pennsylvania child custody lawyers can help you get the child custody order that is best for your family.

This guide explains the types of both legal and physical custody available to parents in the state of Pennsylvania.

Legal Custody in PA

In Pennsylvania, “legal custody” of a child refers to the right and responsibility of a custodial parent to make major decisions for a child. Such decisions legal custody involves may include which school to attend, religious upbringing, and medical treatment. 

Shared Legal Custody

Shared legal custody, joint legal custody, or simply joint custody is the most common type of legal custody order in PA. Both parents have the right and the responsibility to make decisions regarding their children’s welfare and lifestyle. Co-parenting with shared custody requires a high level of cooperation between the parents, who must discuss, compromise, and eventually agree on how to raise their children.

Sole Legal Custody

If the court orders sole legal custody or sole custody, then one parent has the right and responsibility to make decisions on behalf of their children. The other parent is not consulted or involved in these decisions, either because they do not wish to be, or because of a parent’s inability to co-parent with the other parent, for example.

Physical Custody in PA

In Pennsylvania, “physical custody” refers to the possession of and responsibility for the children physically. If a child is with a parent, that parent is said to be in custody of the child. A court may order one of several different types of physical custody arrangements.

Shared Physical Custody

This is a very common type of physical custody. The parents share joint physical custody of their children, and in this arrangement, the parents have equal custody time with their child or children. Both parents have the ability and right to have possession of their children, and the responsibility to care for them while with them. There are a number of different custody schedules to choose from.

Partial Physical Custody

Partial physical custody occurs when the children reside primarily with one parent and the other parent has less than fifty percent custody time. That parent has partial custody. The parent with partial physical custody has less overnights with the children than the parent in primary custody.. Partial physical custody is fairly common in the appropriate custody case.

Primary Physical Custody

Where partial physical custody is ordered, the parent with whom the children reside has primary physical custody. This parent is called Primary Physical Custodian.

Sole Physical Custody

There are cases where a parent has no custody time with their children. This does not frequently happen. However, there are circumstances where this may be the outcome, and only one parent is awarded sole physical custody. If you are concerned with this as a possibility or you believe it is in your child’s best interest,  you should consult with a good family lawyer. 

Supervised Physical Custody

If a parent cannot be alone with their child for any reason, a court may order supervised visitation or parenting time in an effort to preserve the parent-child relationship and uphold both parental rights and the right of a child to have a relationship with both parents. 

The supervisor may be the other parent or third party ordered by the court, or may be a court officer or other professional. 

How Does a Judge Determine Child Custody in PA?

A judge will consider 16 child custody factors to determine the child custody arrangement in PA.

Our PA Child Custody Lawyers Can Help Your Family

We have helped hundreds of families in Pennsylvania arrive at the child custody arrangement that was best for them. We have also helped parents modify or enforce their existing child custody order in PA. Put our experience to work for your family.

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