Child custody in Pennsylvania has two forms: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions that affect the child's health and welfare. Physical custody determines where the child will live, is further divided into four types: primary, partial, shared and visitation. Child custody cases are decided by judges who base their decision on several factors. Legal custody is most often shared by the parents, but physical custody arrangements can be more complex.
Primary physical custody refers to the right of a parent to have the child in their physical custody for more than 50 percent of the time. When one parent has primary physical custody, the other parent may be granted partial physical custody, meaning that they may take the child into their own custody for periods of time. Partial physical custody is less than 50 percent of the time. Shared physical custody gives both parents equal time with physical custody of the child.
Visitation is the right of one parent to visit the child but not remove the child from the custody of the parent who has primary custody. Visits are sometimes, but not always, supervised, and may take place somewhere other than the residence of the primary custodial parent.
Child custody can be one of the most emotional aspects of a divorce. Custody arrangements can sometimes involve other parties besides the biological parents, including stepparents or grandparents. Those who are seeking child custody may wish to consult with a family law attorney, who could explain their legal rights and help them to understand Pennsylvania's child custody laws and factors that are taken into considerations by judges who decide child custody cases.
Source: Pennsylvania Bar Association , "Child Custody ", October 18, 2014