Pennsylvania Family Law and Divorce
Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C.

PA Family Law Topic of the Week: Physical v. Legal Custody

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During a Western Pennsylvania divorce, one of the main issues that lead to disagreement between spouses is children. During a divorce or even post-divorce, parents very often bicker about their PA child custody schedules. In today's blog we discuss the considerations that go into a Pittsburgh family court deciding a child custody case.

What kinds of custody may a Pittsburgh family court order?

In Pennsylvania, there are two types of custody that will be decided in a child custody agreement: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody involves the right to have your child physically present with you. If you are granted primary physical custody of your children, you will be responsible for their day-to-day care. Legal custody describes which parent will make major decisions regarding the care of the child and the child's health and welfare. These decisions include what school the child should attend or how the child should receive non-emergency medical care.

What are the kinds of arrangements that can be made regarding physical custody?

Physical custody can be granted solely to one parent or shared jointly between both parents. Joint physical custody is when the child resides at both parents' homes and both parents are deemed to be custodial parents. In other words, the child will reside with each parent for a significant period of time.

To determine which parent is granted physical custody, the court uses the legal standard of what is in "the best interest of the child." If the parents can't agree on a PA timesharing schedule, mediation is required before an Allegheny County family law judge will rule on what custody should be set in the best interest of your child.

How does legal custody work?

Legal custody can be jointly held or solely assigned. Joint legal custody, where both parents share responsibility in making decisions for their child, is common in Pennsylvania. However, if the court finds that it is not in the best interest of the child to have the parents share legal custody, the court has the discretion to grant sole legal custody to one parent who can then make decisions regarding the minor child's welfare without input from the other parent.

It is important to note that if a parent is awarded sole legal custody, this does not mean that the non-legal custodial parent will not be given visitation with the child, it just means that only one parent will be making decisions for the child.

If you are facing a child custody dispute, whether as part of a PA divorce or outside of a divorce proceeding, contact the Pennsylvania child custody attorneys at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates. Our team of experienced PA family lawyers is here to provide you with the legal representation you need in your child custody case.

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