The Basics: Child Custody in Pennsylvania

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The Basics: Child Custody in Pennsylvania
By Lisa Marie Vari of Lisa Marie Vari & Associates, P.C. posted in Child Custody on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.

People often become confused and overwhelmed when they are considering filing for custody. How do I file for custody? Can I do that? Can the other parent take my child? Does the other parent have to know about this? You’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed. This blog post will explain some of the basics of child custody here in Pennsylvania based on commonly asked questions.

What is Custody?

In Pennsylvania there is legal custody and there is physical custody. Legal custody allows a parent to make important life decisions for their child- what school the child will attend, what medical treatment the child will receive. Physical custody is who actually has the child.

Sole, Primary, Shared, Partial, Supervised

Aside from physical and legal custody, ‘sole’, ‘primary’, ‘shared’, ‘partial’ and ‘supervised’ are used to further break down the categories of legal and physical custody. Sole means you are the only parent with that type of custody. For example; ‘sole legal custody’ means only that parent can make the decisions. ‘Sole physical custody’ would mean only that parent has the child. ‘Primary physical custody’ means that parent has the child more often than the other. ‘Partial physical custody’ would mean that parent has the child some of the time. ‘Shared legal custody’ would mean both parents have the right to make decisions on behalf of the child. Of course, ‘supervised physical custody’ would mean that this parent has custody of the child only when under the supervision of another adult.

Courts in Pennsylvania have a preference for parents to have shared legal and shared physical custody of their children.

How does the court decide who has custody?

There are sixteen factors any court in Pennsylvania will consider when they write a custody order.

Can the other parent just take my child?

No. Often an angry parent will threaten to terminate the other parent’s rights or to just take the child. Unless your parental rights have been terminated by the court (and you would know because this is a process that takes months and months, if not years to complete and the court would inform you of this kind of proceeding) you have just as much a right to your child as the other parent.

How do I get custody of my child?

Obtaining custody of a child in Pennsylvania is a process. This process starts with the filing of a custody complaint. Once the custody complaint has been filled out it is then filed with the court. When you file a custody complaint the other parent, even if they’ve never been involved in the child’s life, has to know that you’ve filed this complaint. That means they need to receive a copy of the complaint- this is usually done by certified mail so make sure you have this person’s address.

Obtaining custody of your child can be confusing. It can also be difficult and it is most certainly a process. You will not have a custody order overnight. Our experienced team of custody lawyers can answer your additional questions, explain this process in greater detail, and can provide representation to you in your child custody case. Contact our office today to set up a consultation.

Tags: Child Custody, Child Custody in PA, Pennsylvania Child custody, Pittsburgh Family Lawyers, Western PA Child Custody Lawyers

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