Child Custody

Different Types of Child Custody in Pennsylvania

When parents file for divorce, they must agree on a child custody and visitation arrangement or have a judge decide on the matter 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 is a request to the Family Court to make the current custodial arrangement legally binding 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 – A parent requests to have all or most of the custody with the child(ren). Commonly known as “full custody.” 

  • Shared Custody – To ensure the child(ren) has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, Pennsylvania courts often grant both parties shared physical custody. In general, both parents will have equal or close to equal time with the child(ren). Common examples of shared custody arrangements include alternating weeks with the child or splitting weeks and alternating weekends. 

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

  • Sole custody – Only one parent has physical custody of the child(ren). 

  • Supervised partial physical custody – A parent, agency, or a court-appointed adult must supervise a person’s custodial time with the child(ren). 

Legal custody involves a parent’s right to make major decisions on behalf of the child(ren). Common types of major 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 are interested in obtaining child custody or modifying 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.