Child Custody Laws in PA

When you’ve decided to part ways with the other parent of your children, determining your family’s custody arrangement and visitation schedule will be a critical component of the upcoming proceedings. Unfortunately, this is an area where many families can’t seem to agree, which is why having an understanding of Pennsylvania child custody laws can be helpful to your case. Below, we have outlined the various types of custody that are available to families across the state. Continue reading to learn more about which child custody arrangement will work best for you and your family.

Legal Custody

Legal custody is the right to make decisions impacting major issues involving minor children such as medical care, education and school choice, sport and school activities and religion.  Pennsylvania courts often encourage parents to work together in a legal custody agreement to share the decision making responsibilities. Parents who share the decision making rights for their minor children are referred to as having a shared legal custody arrangement. There are few cases where it becomes necessary for only one parent to have the power to make these decisions. An arrangement of this nature is referred to as sole legal custody. Legal custody doesn’t necessarily define the living arrangements or visitation of your shared children—it simply determines who has the right to make important decisions about the children’s lives. Physical custody, on the other hand, will determine living arrangements and visitation. Types of physical custody are discussed below.

Primary Physical Custody

A parent with primary physical custody has the children live with him or her for the majority of the time. This parent is the primary custodial parent. This form of custody simply demonstrates that the children primarily reside with one parent but does not negate the other parent’s right to a custody schedule with the children. The primary custodial parent generally has custody 60 – 70 percent of the overnights in a calendar year.

Partial Physical Custody

In a partial physical custody agreement, the noncustodial parent will have the right to take the children to places other than the custodial parent’s home. This arrangement will usually include the noncustodial parent being able to keep the children overnight during the week or on weekends.  A partial custody schedule generally amounts to 30 to 40 percent of the overnights in a calendar year. A partial custody schedule will factor in time during the school year, vacation time in the summer and a schedule for dividing holidays.

Shared Physical Custody

Also known as joint custody, joint physical custody, and shared custody, a shared physical custody arrangement means that both parents are typically spending an equal amount of quality time with their children. Pennsylvania family courts often encourage this custody arrangement because it is assumed that the children will benefit from frequently spending time with both parents. Common shared custody schedules include a 5-2-2-5 arrangement whereby the children spend Monday to Wednesday morning with one parent, Wednesday morning to Friday morning with the other parent and alternate weekends from Friday morning until Monday morning.  Another common shared custody schedule is a week on – week off shared physical custody schedule.

Sole Physical Custody

This type of Pennsylvania child custody arrangement is one of the least common. Sole physical custody means that one parent is given custody rights to the child, while the other parent has no custody rights at all.

Speak with a Pennsylvania Child Custody Lawyer

When you need help ensuring that the best interests of your children are always the top priority, reach out to a compassionate child custody lawyer at Lisa Marie Vari & Associates. Our firm will fight for your family to make sure your children don’t become victims of a difficult separation. You can contact our office by phone at 1-844-VARI-LAW (1-844-827-4529) or fill out the online contact form below to schedule your initial PA child custody consultation today.