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Different Types of Child Custody in Pennsylvania

Child Custody

When parents file for divorce, they must agree on a child custody and visitation arrangement or have a judge decide if they cannot agree on a parenting plan. There are two types of custody: physical and legal custody. 

Physical custody determines where the child(ren) will live. Therefore, a parent with primary physical custody—commonly known as the “custodial parent” lives with the child, while the noncustodial parent must pay monthly child support

The following are the different types of physical custody arrangements available to parents in Pennsylvania: 

Confirmation of Custody

This complaint requests the Family Court to legally bind the current custodial arrangement by filing a motion to the judge.

A person may seek this type of custody order if he/she is the custodial parent, a custody order does not exist, the children are in the individual’s care, the other party (i.e., noncustodial parent) agrees with the custodial parent’s request or is not involved in the daily lives and decision-making of the child(ren), does not regularly see the child(ren), and/or is in jail/prison or medically incapacitated. 

Primary Custody in PA

A parent requests custody of the child(ren). Commonly known as “full custody.” 

In Pennsylvania, primary physical custody means that one parent has physical guardianship for most of the time.

Shared Physical Custody in PA

Shared physical custody in Pennsylvania is when both parents have the right to significant periods of physical custody.

Shared physical custody is also called joint physical custody. This arrangement ensures that children have frequent and continuing contact with both parents.

Pennsylvania courts often grant both parties shared physical custody.

Common examples of shared custody arrangements include alternating weeks with the child or splitting weeks and alternating weekends. 

Partial Custody in PA

Partial custody in Pennsylvania is when a parent has physical custody of a child for less than half of the time. The other parent has primary physical guardianship.

The noncustodial parent can spend a specific period with the child(ren). A typical example of partial physical custody is having the child every other weekend. 

What Does Sole Custody Mean in PA?

Sole custody in Pennsylvania means one parent has physical and legal custody of a child.

The custodial parent has most of the child's time, and the non-custodial parent has court-ordered visitation rights.

Supervised Partial Physical Custody in PA

Supervised partial physical custody in Pennsylvania is when a third party, such as a parent, agency, or court-appointed adult, oversees a parent's time with their child.

A court may order this if it's unsafe for the child to be alone with that parent.

Legal Custody in PA

Legal custody involves a parent’s right to make significant decisions for the child(ren).

Significant decisions include education, medical, religious, and legal matters. 

The two types of legal custody arrangements include: 

  • Shared legal custody – Both parents must agree on major decisions on behalf of the child(ren) together. 

  • Primary legal custody – One parent has all the decision-making authority. 

If you want to obtain child custody or modify a current order in Philadelphia, PA, call William Kirby Law at (215) 515-9901 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an initial consultation.

Serving clients across Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties.