What is Shared Legal Custody in PA?

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

Learn about what shared legal custody is in Pennsylvania from noted PA child custody lawyer Lee A. Schwartz, Esq.

The PA child custody lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC have over 40 years of combined experience helping clients arrive at the custody arrangements they need and deserve. Call us today for help with your child custody case.

Definition of Shared Legal Custody in PA

In Pennsylvania, the term “shared legal custody” is a type of child custody arrangement in which both parents have the right and responsibility to make major decisions for their child or children equally. Shared legal custody may also be called “joint legal custody.”

In a shared legal custody scenario, parents must work together to co-parent their children and either agree or compromise on issues that arise, such as school choice, religious upbringing, and medical and dental care. Parents who have shared legal custody may also have shared physical custody, but not necessarily. 

Physical custody is what it sounds like – physical possession of the children themselves. Shared physical custody ensures that children have frequent and continuing contact, including physical access, to both parents. Most often this means that both parents have equal or close to equal time with their child. For example, parents with shared physical custody may alternate weeks with the child or split weeks and alternate weekends.

Other Types of Child Custody in PA

Partial Child Custody

A parent may have partial custody of their children when they have the right to take the children from the parent with primary custody for less than 50% of the overnights in a week or month. This is common when one parent cannot share physical custody due to work, travel, living out of the school district, or some other impediment to having the children in their home half of the time.

A parent with partial child custody has the right to have unsupervised physical custody of their children at agreed-upon or ordered times.

Primary Child Custody

If a parent is granted primary custody, their children reside with them most of the time. Day-to-day decisions such as what the child wears to school, the child’s bedtime, and minor disciplinary actions are the responsibility of the parent with primary custody. The other parent either has partial custody, unsupervised parenting time or visitation, or supervised parenting time or visitation if deemed necessary by the court. 

Sole Child Custody

A parent may be granted sole child custody in PA if the other parent is unwilling or unfit to parent. Lack of fitness is indicated when a parent poses a danger or risk to the children by virtue of negligence, abuse, or addiction, or if the parent is incarcerated, among other things. 

The custodial parent has exclusive physical and legal custody of the child when sole custody is ordered. The noncustodial parent does not participate in decisions regarding the children’s welfare and does not visit them unsupervised, or in extreme cases, at all.

“Sole child custody” may also be referred to as “full child custody.”

What Do I Do if the Other Parent is Not Following the Child Custody Order?

If the other parent is not adhering to the terms of the child custody order, you can file an enforcement petition in family court. You must describe the actions of the noncompliant parent. The court can hold that parent in contempt and/or grant the petitioner sole custody in extreme cases.

What Do I Do if I Need to Modify the Child Custody Order in PA?

If you need to modify child custody for any reason, you must petition the court. Do not change the arrangement yourself, or informally agree with the other parent to change it. Doing so could expose yourself to a possible enforcement action against you should the other parent wish to return to the original custody terms. Always seek a court order to memorialize any changes to child custody.

Call the PA Child Custody Lawyers at Schwartz, Fox & Saltzman, LLC for Help

Put our experience to work for you. Whether you are just beginning to negotiate the custody arrangement, are seeking to modify a custody order, or need to enforce a child custody order in PA, we can help you. Call us to discuss your case.

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