For a parent, making sure that a child custody matter is properly handled can be one of the most significant responsibilities they ever have to deal with, and one that many feel unprepared for and confused by given the legal nature of the proceedings. At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., we are committed to helping parents and children achieve positive outcomes in child custody matters. Below is a quick overview of how Pennsylvania child custody laws operate.

The Various Types of Custody in Pennsylvania

When you hear about “custody” of a child, you might think simply of where the child lives, but there are actually two separate custody determinations that will have to be made: 1) legal custody, and 2) physical custody.

Legal custody determines which parent has the right and responsibility to make important decisions on behalf of the child relating to such issues as schooling, health care needs, travel, and religion. Legal custody may be awarded to one parent (sole legal custody) or both of the parents (shared legal custody).

Physical custody is the determination of the parent with whom the child will reside, and thus which parent will have the responsibility for taking care of the child on a day-to-day basis (child support is a whole separate issue, thus, a parent with physical custody may still be supported by the other parent in financially providing for the child). As with legal custody, physical custody can be awarded to one parent (primary physical custody) or both parents (shared physical custody). A court may also award partial physical custody, which is essentially unsupervised visitation rights. Finally, a court can also provide supervised visitation to a parent.

Parental Agreement vs. Going to Trial

Legal custody and physical custody can be worked out between the parents themselves, and, if the parents can reach an agreement regarding these issues, this agreement will be submitted to a family court judge for approval.

If the parents cannot reach an agreement with one another regarding custody, they will have to present evidence to a family court judge, who will make the determinations of physical custody and legal custody. In Pennsylvania, the judge will make these determinations based on the best interests of the child, which can be based on the following factors:

  • The likelihood of each parent to encourage and permit contact between the child and the other parent
  • Whether a parent has engaged in domestic violence now or in the past
  • The duties each parent performs for the child
  • The need for stability and continuity in the child’s education, family life and community life
  • The availability of extended family and the child’s relationships with siblings
  • Each parent’s ability to maintain a loving, stable and nurturing relationship with the child
  • Each parent’s ability to attend to the emotional, physical and developmental needs of the child
  • The proximity of the parents to one another
  • Drug or alcohol abuse in either parent’s household
  • Any other relevant factor

Get Help With Your PA Custody Matter Today

At The Martin Law Firm, P.C., we understand the stress that parents face when trying to take the best course of action for their children in a custody matter, and we are committed to serving your needs in a compassionate and efficient manner. 3 for a no-hassle consultation regarding your child custody matter.